NASCAR: Second place not good enough for Edwards
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. ó Carl Edwards and second-place are not a good fit.
“The only thing about second is it’s better than third. That’s really all you can say,” the runner-up in both the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series championships said, reflecting on torrid finishes that came up short in the point standings on each circuit.
“We all go out here to win, and the feeling of victory and achievement is so huge that second is not (pleasurable),” Edwards said on Friday during Champions’ Week media day at Disney World. “It’s satisfying that we performed so well, but getting second really doesn’t mean a lot.”
Clint Bowyer held off Edwards for the Nationwide driver championship by 21 points, and Jimmie Johnson prevailed in the Sprint Cup Series, even though Edwards won a series-best nine races and three of the final four.
Most years, the 2007 Nationwide Series champion would have repeated with the kind of comeback he staged after trailing by 204 points with eight races to go. But Bowyer’s season-long consistency was too much to overcome.
Bowyer, who was working in a body shop in Kansas before receiving a career-changing call from Richard Childress a few years ago, won just one of 35 races. But 14 top-five finishes and a series-best 29 top-10s were enough to give the native of Emporia, Kan., his first driver championship.
Bowyer was recognized Saturday during an awards banquet in Orlando. Joe Gibbs Racing won the owner championship, winning a series-record 19 races and amassing a staggering 32 top-five and 44 top-10 finishes.
“How can you not appreciate it. It’s unbelievable to be able to think what we accomplished this year,” Bowyer said on Friday. “Whether you were a filthy rich kid and bought your ride and owned the team and owned the car, what we were able to accomplish means a lot and is a lot of fun to be a part of.”
The crown also is special because of who he beat for the title. He and Edwards, of Columbia, Mo., were raised in the Midwest and are good friends off the track.
“We grew up with kind of the same backgrounds, him being from Missouri and me being from Kansas. We’re both very proud to able to get paid to do what we’re doing. I know how hard he worked and how much it means to him to be able to race,” Bowyer said.
Edwards won three of the last four Nationwide Series events and seven overall to make it interesting down the stretch.
Still, Edwards and crew chiefs Drew Bickensderfer and Bob Osborne were left with an empty feeling last weekend after winning both the season-ending Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup races at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In addition to not catching Bowyer, Edwards fell 69 points short of stopping Johnson from taking his record-tying third consecutive Cup championship.
“I know we won those last two races, but I’ve never seen two guys ó not dejected, but more focused than that,” Edwards said.
“Standing there in Victory Lane at Homestead, you look across the racetrack and see those guys celebrating and you say: ‘Oh man, that could have been us if we had just done a couple of things differently.’ That’s motivating.”
Edwards is looking forward to 2009, too.
He plans to travel to London for the Race of Champions next month and is getting married in January. Later comes his first trip to Thailand for a week or two of sightseeing, rest and relaxation.
“I know nothing about Thailand. I know nothing about Bangkok. That’s going to be fun,” Edwards said. “We tried to think of a place that was farthest, literally and figuratively, from Columbia, Mo. I’m thinking, Bangkok, Thailand could not be any farther.”
Then, it’s on to next season and resuming the quest to catch Johnson. Despite his disappointment in falling short this year, Edwards said he has nothing but respect for the champion.
“Jimmie, what he’s done, I think not only is good for him. It’s good for the sport to have a guy who can do that and have those kinds of results. As much as I can be, I’m happy for him. He’s a good guy, he deserves it,” Edwards said.
“We didn’t mess up. Jimmie just was perfect. … By most measures (our year) was great, but we set out this season to win two championships and we came up a little bit short. … At least we can rest well knowing that we had these guys nervous a little bit at the end.”