By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
November 22, 2010 12:01 PM, EST
Back-to-back victories to end season not lost on 99 team, offers promise again.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — It’s not often that a two-race winning streak gets an asterisk.
For Carl Edwards, wins at Phoenix and Homestead to close out the season are definitely a reason to celebrate, particularly when the first ended a 70-race winless streak. But at Phoenix, Denny Hamlin’s fuel-mileage issues stole the headlines and on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Edwards had to share the spotlight with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Edwards was asked if it was frustrating to have his Victory Lane celebration interrupted. After all, he faced a similar situation in 2008.
“I tell you, it’s a lot more frustrating to not be in Victory Lane and watching somebody out there doing their donuts and all that stuff,” Edwards said. “I’ve been in this position before. We have won this race, and whoever wins this race is usually watching somebody else celebrate out there with the championship.”
However, after winning that race two years ago, Edwards was installed as the odds-on favorite to win the championship the following year — and promptly went winless until last weekend.
“Please don’t do that again,” Edwards pleaded with the media. “That didn’t work worth a damn.”
During the past two weeks, the smiles and jokes have returned for Edwards, who admitted the strain of going almost two seasons without a victory was hard on him, crew chief Bob Osborne and owner Jack Roush.
“A 70-race winless streak is very difficult,” Edwards said. “It’s difficult because Jack owns this team. He goes to bed and wakes up every morning, I’m sure, thinking, ‘How can we make this better.’
“I go to bed and wake up every morning, thinking how can I be better, and Bob does the same thing. When you don’t get the results you want, you first look at yourself and you say, ‘Hey, how can I do better?’ It’s very easy to start looking around and start pointing fingers at everyone else.”
So for Edwards, finishing the season with back-to-back victories was a great way to close 2010.
“To look at what we have done and look at these two race wins and [finishing] fourth in points and say, ‘Hey, if you would have told me 10 races into the season that this is how we were going to wrap this thing up,’ I would not have believed you,” Edwards said. “This is beyond the comeback that I expected [and] it’s really beyond what I hoped for. This is a very good, good finish to the season.”
If anything, Edwards wishes the Daytona 500 was next week rather than next year.
“Heck, yeah, I wish the season was just starting,” Edwards said. “That would be nice to start the season with these two wins but we’ll go for three in a row at Daytona and that would be a heck of a place to get three in a row.
“We have been close at Daytona in a couple races, and that would be nice. So we’ll go there with guns blazing and I think we are going to be better than we have ever been, starting next season.”
If anything, Edwards believes he and his team have learned their lessons from 2009, mainly because of experience and horsepower.
“I feel a lot better right now going into 2011 than I did going into 2009, and that’s because I feel we have a lot of momentum and things are getting better,” Edwards said. “We have a new engine that we are working on that just keeps getting better.
“That is the best performance down a straightaway that I have had in a long time [Sunday]. We just got a lot of good things going. I can’t tell you guys how much this means to finish a season like this, this is just spectacular for us.”
When Martin Truex Jr. had to make an unscheduled stop for a tire going flat, Edwards’ main focus turned to watching the laps tick off and keeping an eye on what was happening in the Chase.
“I don’t think anyone wanted to be out there racing those guys too hard, just because of the potential disaster that you could be a part of,” Edwards said. “We joked about it [and said,] ‘Hey, it would be nice to watch that whole thing out of the rear-view mirror.’ And that’s what we did almost all day.”
Even if it meant delaying his celebration a few minutes for a fireworks display.
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