An all-business Edwards will take the title from Johnson this year
Despite being lost in the Chase, Carl Edwards outpointed Jimmie Johnson last year
Edwards was brought down by petty arguments that Johnson avoided
This year an all business Edwards will cruise to the title over Johnson
When I was at the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte last month, I heard Matt Kenseth expound at length on championship predictions. How, he wondered, could anybody pick against Jimmie Johnson. "He's been my pick every year," Kenseth said, going on to make the following point -- What reason has he given anybody to pick against him?
Well, point taken, sir. But I still find myself hard pressed to pick against Carl Edwards this year. The fact remains that, race-for-race, Edwards outpointed Johnson last year, and lost in part because of the reshuffling of the field for the Chase. Nine wins. Nineteen top-5 finishes. Twenty-seven top-10 finishes. All series highs. Add in the fact that Cousin Carl is the best driver on the Cup circuit at piloting around the 1.5-mile ovals -- which make up the bulk of the schedule -- and my response to Kenseth is this: What reason did Carl give last year for anybody to pick against him in 2009?
If there's a chink in the armor for Edwards, I think it is in his temperament. He's driven to win, and it makes him the most exciting driver in the series besides Kyle Busch. I don't care what anybody says, I admire the heck out of the video-game inspired move Edwards made on the final lap at Kansas last year to get around the front-running Johnson. (You can see it here) But that go-for-broke style can come back to bite him, as it did at Talladega last October, when he got over-anxious and started a late race wreck that wound up costing him a likely championship.
Last year, in my opinion, Johnson was the more coolly professional of the two, and it showed, especially in the Chase. After Talladega, Edwards got into a public scuffle with Kevin Harvick that became a distraction at just the time he needed all of his focus. For the life of me, I just can't imagine Johnson ever getting caught up in such shenanigans. Maybe Edwards can do that kind of stuff and still win a championship, but it sure makes it hard when he's trying to beat somebody as bloodless as JJ.
This year, I expect, Edward is going to be all business. He burns to win, perhaps as much or more than anybody else in the Cup garage, He's got the equipment and the talent to win it all in 2009. I'll be surprised if he doesn't get it done.
0: Number of drivers younger than rookie Joey Logano, 18, to start the Daytona 500
19: Age of Clark Dwyer, the next youngest driver ever to make a start in the Great American Race (19 years, one month and eight days)
21: Dwyer's finishing position in the 1983 Daytona 500
THE PHOTO FINISH
One final thought on Edwards: if he wins on Sunday, I expect something a bit more graceful than this.