Edwards derailed by his ego, gossip
Carl Edwards became defeated when he realized he'd taken this feud too far
His behavior could be why Jack Roush said his driver wasn't ready to win
Jimmie Johnson's had an average 4.6 place finish in the Chase's first five races
I don't think I've ever borne witness to anything more bizarre than the schoolyard hijinks that went on last weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway. From the gossipy tales of name-calling and note-passing, to the sight of two of Cup racing's top drivers throwing down in the Nationwide garage, this year's Bank of America 500 was a race to remember.
But what struck me most was how defeated Carl Edwards seemed by the end of the weekend -- and not just because he saw his championship dreams go up in smoke with his 34th-place finish. Edwards was the instigator of the fight. It was Edwards who caused the 12-car smash up the week before at Talladega, a slip which prompted Kevin Harvick to call him a "pansy" on live television. It was Edwards who left a sarcastic note for Harvick on his plane; and it was Edwards who got in Harvick's face after Nationwide practice at Lowe's. Only when the whole thing went public, complete with pictures of Harvick knocking him down, did Edwards seem to realize that he'd forced the issue too far. Harvick, on the other hand, seemed all too eager to stir the pot. Cousin Carl picked the wrong man to mess with.
Is Edwards's behavior what Jack Roush was referring to at Pocono when he said he didn't think his driver was ready to win a championship until this season? It certainly seems that way to me. Edwards entered the Chase with everything going for him, but let his pride derail him at a crucial moment. Yes, he made a big mistake at Talladega. But he made an even bigger one at Charlotte when he chose to take on Harvick, who was more than happy to mix it up. By the time the race was over, Edwards just wanted to get out of town and make a fresh start at Martinsville.
Perhaps Edwards just assumed that Harvick would flinch, the way Matt Kenseth did when Edwards feigned a punch at him last fall at Martinsville. Who knows? When the Chase started, I really thought it was going to be hard for anybody to beat Edwards. And in the end, nobody did. It was his ego that laid him low.
HOW TO DRIVE
Kurt Busch talks about the physical nature of passing at Martinsville: "I hope that I have a fast enough car to be moving guys out of the way. This race track, whether you're driving an Allison legacy car or late model or even in the truck series, the front bumpers to the rear bumpers have always matched up to the point where you can lift somebody's tires up or get them loose in the fashion that you are racing him. It's not a life or death situation. With this new car, when you bump someone, the front part of the car still stays planted and that's where some of the excitement has changed. If we want to make adjustments, we need to adjust to where we can race with the front of these cars -- but sometimes that always isn't encouraged. And so, if you have a faster car, that driver, 99 percent of the time, can figure out a way to get by him."
2: Number of times in the last two seasons that the points leader after five races of the Chase has failed to win the Cup
12: Number of times, out of 13 starts, that points leader Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top 10 at Martinsville
6: Johnson's average finish at Martinsville
4.6: Johnson's average finish in the first five races of the 2008 Chase
October 12, 1958: Glenn "Fireball" Roberts leads 165 laps en route to victory in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville. The win is his fourth in a row, as well as his last of the season, giving him six in just 10 starts (he was splitting time between NASCAR's Grand National and Modified series).