COULD FANS EMBRACE CARL EDWARDS AS THE FACE OF NASCAR?

If you’re a serious fan, forget for a moment what you know about Carl Edwards. On first blush, he’s a car owner, a sponsor and a NASCAR front office dream. If you shut some things out of your mind for a moment, Carl Edwards has what it takes to be the face of NASCAR.

Carl Edwards breaks the stereotype of a NASCAR driver. He’s trim, athletic, speaks with a clear mid-Western accent, he talks about his sponsors like he actually knows what they do, and heck, the guy used to be a substitute school teacher, for goodness sake! Edwards also possesses a certain panache; performing celebratory back flips and running through the grand stands after his wins (that is, when he can get to them). The Missourian also has a sense of humor, talks about regular Joes he salutes in his post-race interviews like they’re his best friends, and he tugs the heart strings when he speaks of his mom, his wife and his baby girl in adoring terms. On top of it all, Edwards is a winner, having just pulled even with Kyle Busch for career wins with his victory at the Las Vegas Kobalt Tools 400, just passing the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Matt Kenseth. 

Yes, you would think the fans would flock to Cousin Carl as THEIR man to dethrone five-time powerhouse Jimmie Johnson for this year’s championship without reservation. You would, but then there’s those questions concerning a darker side to the man possessing the toothiest grin this side of John Elway.

This is, after all, the same Carl Edwards that about detached Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hand from his arm during a dust up at Michigan a few years’ back. This is also the same Carl Edwards that tangled with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and teammate Matt Kenseth. Topping it all off, this same Carl Edwards incurred the wrath of fans and commentators alike with two very well-documented incidents with Brad Keselowski just this last season. You can almost strains of Bruce Springsteen’s “Two Faces” or “Cain’s Blood,” by 4 Runner as his theme songs:

“Guess I always saw myself as a simple man
But there’s a man in the mirror I don’t understand
Every day I fight it, but I know down deep
It’s the secrets I’ve been keeping
Rising from their sleep”

It’s interesting that it’s this same Carl Edwards that Jimmie Johnson’s father called a “class act” after Johnson edged Edwards for the 2008 championship. I guess it just depends on your frame of reference.

Some say Edwards is a fake; just a bully. Others say the owner of 19 career Cup wins is fierce competitor who just needs to learn to pick his battles better and not respond to an ant with an atom bomb.

Will those fans once angry with Edwards forgive and forget? Perhaps there are others who would say the likes of Harvick, Busch and Keselowski need someone who won’t take any guff from them. Will fans see him more as that “Everyman” who shopped his business cards to anyone who would give him the time of day? Or will Edwards come off as being a bit “too corporate,” with all his good manners when he knows the cameras are rolling? Perhaps it may just come down to fans desiring to see ANYONE hoisting the Sprint Cup whose name is not Jimmie Johnson.

If you’re one of those fans clamoring for a new champion, you may get your wish. For you, it will be a matter of “It’s about time?” or will be “Be careful what you ask for?”