In some NASCAR circles, much talk has emerged about the possibility of a winless Chase champion. If NASCAR were Survivor, one would certainly credit Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth with “outlasting” the competition. Though winless, Newman and Kenseth have raised their respective games at the right time. The Rocket Man has an average finish of 5.8 in his last five races, while Kenseth has been a solid 9.0.
With that said, the biggest threat to win the Chase not named Jeff Gordon or Joey Logano is not driving a Chevy or a Toyota; fittingly, the dark horse pick in this writer’s opinion races for the manufacturer that gave us the Mustang and the Bronco. We’re not talking about Brad Keselowski either; the driver who could end up taking it all is a two-time Chase runner-up named Carl Edwards.
All three remaining races are at tracks where Edwards has won multiple times. At Texas, Cousin Carl is a three-time winner. At Phoenix and Homestead, Edwards has two victories each. That’s seven career victories. The only driver who come close is Denny Hamlin. who has five at this trio of venues. Kevin Harvick has five, all at Phoenix.
Now while history smiles on Carl Edwards as a dark horse contender, recent performance provides fuel for the naysayers. Edwards’ team- Roush Fenway Racing- used to be a threat with their intermediate program. The 99 hasn’t been horrible in on the intermediates (four top fives and eight top tens and an average finish of 14.8,) it doesn’t compare to Jeff Gordon’s or Brad Keselowski’s four wins on medium tracks, or the total of three checkered flags at track of the same length by Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. Even though he has no wins at all this season, Matt Kenseth’s stats are better at the so-called cookie cutters.
Somebody needs to get this man some speed! Before dismissing Edwards’ body of work consider that his two wins have come at Bristol and Sonoma. You’re a wheel man when you win at those places.
One of the great things about the multiple point resets is that it opens the door for a late season run. All Carl Edwards needs is just win. Yes- the competition will be tough- but one thing we’ve learned in this Chase so far is one race is all it takes to go from zero to hero. The fortunes of Harvick and Keselowski took a hit at Martinsville, and suddenly Kenseth and Newman are relevant as threats to Jeff Gordon’s “Drive For Five” and Joey Logano’s breakout campaign.
The battle cry for the 99 could very easily be “Why Not Us?” The talent is there, Edwards just needs a car that will perform…..and maybe a little luck.