Posted: Friday August 11, 2006 2:35PM; Updated: Friday August 11, 2006 3:15PM
After beginning his career as a sub, Carl Edwards has blossomed into a take-no-prisoners star with Roush Racing.
For a former substitute teacher who's one of the most level-headed drivers in NASCAR, Carl Edwards certainly started out a terror. You think the third-year Nextel Cup driver is tough to keep up with on the track? You wouldn't have wanted to chase him around the house as a youngster. Even today, the memory of Carl's early years leave his mother, Nancy, short of breath -- like the time she made the mistake of leaving Carl and a friend alone in a room with a pellet gun. Nancy didn't see Carl pull the trigger, but "I heard a noise," she said this week, and shouted, "What was that?"
About an hour later that same day, she got a call from her husband, who said, "I think you're going to have to come over and get Carl and his buddy and take them to the hospital, because [his buddy] has a pellet in his leg, and it's oozing blood."
"They had put Band-Aids all over it," Nancy says, "but it was still a bloody mess."
Nancy can let a laugh now, and inside a library of all places! It was inside the basement of the New York Public Library, where I caught up with mother and son, relaxing together on a couch. The two breezed into town on Thursday for lunch with the National PTA, which named Carl its Ambassador of Youth last April -- the second in the organization's 109-year history. (The first? Kathy Ireland.) Meanwhile, Nancy has counted herself among the PTA's nearly six million members since Carl was a middle schooler, joining not out of necessity, she says, but because she wanted to be involved.
Carl is quick to credit her mothering for getting him to where he is today: turning laps on stock car racing's premier circuit, his whole career just around the bend. But the dream season he enjoyed in 2005 (a year that saw him claim four checkered flags and finish third in the points standings) has given way to a '06 season in which his momentum has been slowed. Sitting 14th in the standings heading into Saturday's AMD at the Glen, and with five races to go before the field is set for the Chase for the Championship, Edwards will need a finish similar to the flourish he had last year (winning in back-to-back weeks) if he is to again challenge for the Cup title. Substitute teaching would seem to offer a few lessons on making up ground.