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Big changes from last year for Bowyer and Edwards
Question of the Day
Edwards had claimed the top spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship a week earlier and was locked into a tense title race. Bowyer used the venue to announce his next career move after a nerve-racking summer scouring a limited free agent market.
Things couldn’t be any more different a year later as they’ve returned for Sunday’s race.
It’s Bowyer, in his first year with Michael Waltrip Racing, who is now a title contender. Edwards, who lost the championship to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker, is stuck in neutral after a steep drop-off.
“Man this thing is so competitive,” Edwards said. “I cannot express to you guys how quickly everyone leapfrogs in the garage.”
Edwards, who still lives two hours away in hometown Columbia, Mo., goes into Sunday’s race ranked 15th in the standings. He’s not in the 12-driver Chase field and is stuck in a 64-race winless streak dating back to Phoenix in Feb. 2011. It’s the longest drought of his nine-year Sprint Cup career.
This wasn’t what anyone had in mind after last year’s finale, which ended in a tie between Edwards and Stewart. The championship went to Stewart based on his five Chase victories, and Edwards sat down with the Roush Fenway Racing management group to figure out where they could have found that one difference-making point.
“Well, that didn’t work very well, did it?” he asked.
While teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth have won races and made the Chase, Edwards has struggled to match the consistency and repeat the dominance of last season. But he’s seen improvement, and has four top-10 finishes in the 12 races he’s been paired with Norris.
“Chad and these guys have done a spectacular job,” Edwards said. “We qualified second at Indy, and we started picking up speed. I wouldn’t want to be in Chad’s position. We didn’t make the Chase, but as it stands right now if we would have made it, we’re still not running well enough and we’re getting caught up with troubles that we don’t need. It’s not like we’ve gone on a tear and won three races. This is kind of how of where we deserve to be right now.”
The contrast is Bowyer, from 90 minutes away in Emporia. He’s having the best season of his career with a team he wasn’t even sure he wanted to join.
Bowyer had six good years with Richard Childress Racing and wanted to stay there, but couldn’t work out an extension last season. With so few open seats, fledgling MWR persuaded Bowyer to take a chance on them because they had a plan in place toward becoming a legitimate player in NASCAR.
That leap of faith may be the best decision Bowyer’s ever made.
By Michael Widlanski
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