With the heat of summer turning into the cool of autumn, last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, Carl Edwards saw the hot streak that he had been riding all summer long turn brutally cold.
Less than 60 laps into last weekend's Pepsi Max 400, Carl Edwards suffered a problem with the distributor. And according to Edwards, "I don't think I've ever had that particular part take me out of a race."
Edwards' distributor problem was the second of three incidents involving Roush Fenway Championship contenders. Teammate Greg Biffle saw his championship hopes go up in smoke, literally, just a few laps prior to Edwards' problems when he lost an engine.
And Matt Kenseth, who had been running strong, and near the front all day long, had his engine begin to expire in the closing 20 laps. He was able to nurse it long enough to be running at the finish, but could only manage a 30th-place finish.
As the Series prepares for its final night race of the season, Edwards now finds himself 162 points behind Championship leader Jimmie Johnson. But Edwards is still not ready to give up his hope of winning the title this season.
"We have six races to go, and if we can reel off a couple wins and have some top fives and Jimmie can have a little bit of trouble, then I think it could still be anyone's race," said Edwards.
He later added "mathematically, anyone could be leading the Chase in three races. So we just have to keep that in mind going forward. But the only way to make sure you have success is to do everything right and hope for the best."
But Edwards knows that his hopes at a championship are very much dependent on his success this weekend in Charlotte. After starting 31st in the Coca Cola 600 earlier this year at Charlotte, Edwards was never a factor and could only muster a 16th-place finish.
Last year, he had one finish in the top 5 at Charlotte, and one outside the top 35. It is that inconsistency at this track that worries Edwards.
"Charlotte is an unknown. I just don't know what's going to happen. We've been on and off there," said Edwards.
Edwards knows that this weekend's race isn't the only obstacle that he has to overcome to have a chance at the championship this year.
He knows that there is a four-time defending champion currently sitting atop the standings yet again who thrives once we get to this point in the season.
Edwards was quick to acknowledge the challenges presented by the driver of the No. 48.
"It's not just one thing that they do. They qualify well, they have good pit stops, they make good strategic calls from the box, and Jimmie does a good job driving
Edwards added, "I think the most amazing thing about it is that they have just been able to do it over such a long period of time."
As much respect as Edwards has for Johnson and his accomplishments, he says that he uses it as motivation for himself. And its not a situation that Johnson is holding everyone else back from winning championships of their own, he is just proving that it can be done.
And with this weekend's race being at a track that Johnson has dominated over the last few years, Edwards will need all the motivation he can get if he is going to climb back into the championship hunt.
While Edwards doesn't know exactly how this race will play out, he feels confident about the rest of the schedule, and feels with the momentum that his team carried all through the summer, a win or two to close out the season is certainly within reach.
When asked about his near two-year winless drought in the Cup Series, Edwards was quick to point out that he doesn't put any added pressure on himself and still takes a business-as-usual approach.
"If you've run really well recently, it doesn't matter. Once you show up at the racetrack, you have to do it again. If you've run really poorly recently, it doesn't matter. Any week could be the start of a turnaround," said Edwards.
He also says that he is at the point in his career where he has finally been able to get the perspective that if you continue to keep running well, the wins will eventually come.
So, for Carl Edwards, there is definitely a mountain to climb if 2010 is going to be a championship season, but he is not ready to give up yet.
And what better way to tell the entire NASCAR world that you are still in the title picture than by going out and winning at a track that it wouldn't normally be expected of you.
Don't be surprised if you see Carl Edwards back-flipping his way back into championship contention this weekend in Charlotte.
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