DOVER, Delaware - As usual, Carl Edwards was dealing with dueling responsibilities.
As he was being interviewed on the pit road after his 11th-place finish in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, he showed off some of his legendary fitness by sprinting to the garage.
“Gotta talk to my guys” was his only explanation in passing as he disappeared.
Just as quickly he was back from pursuing his crew powwow, asking forgiveness from scribes and taking more questions.
As frazzled as the scene was, for Edwards being pulled in multiple directions is apropos. He started Sunday just hoping he would advance to the next round of NASCAR’s new playoff system so he could continue chasing that elusive Sprint Cup title one more time for Roush Fenway Racing -- all while he prepares for his new digs at Joe Gibbs Racing next year.
He started the day tied for eighth in the standings, and his finish advanced him from Round 1 (the “Challenger” round) to the “Contender” round. The next three races are at Kansas, Charlotte and the ultimate wild card at Talladega. Considering that the driver who started the day just one point behind Edwards, A.J. Allmendinger, was eliminated after a 23rd-place run, Edwards has every right to feel excited about dodging a bullet and moving on.
“This is built for us,” Edwards said of the tracks in the next round. “We keep making small gains, and getting the opportunity to be put back on the same position as the guys in front of us is a huge opportunity for us. We’ve got to capitalize on it. We’ve got to go run well at Kansas, Charlotte, we know we can win Talladega, so I look forward to that race. First time I’ve ever looked forward to Talladega in the Chase.”
That’s because Edwards would automatically qualify for the “Eliminator” round with a Talladega win even if Kansas and Charlotte don’t go his way.
As usual, Edwards is staying positive, crediting the pit crew’s stops and crew chief Jimmy Fennig’s strategy. His only criticism Sunday was of himself, saying he needed to do a better job on restarts.
He seems to be looking inward as he tries to finally figure out how to win a title after losing the crown in 2011 to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker.
“A bunch of things are important for me right now," Edwards said. "I want to do very well for Jack [Roush] and finish the end of this year. Jimmy Fennig [is retiring as a crew chief]. But really, honestly, more important than that to me is that I understand how fleeting and how rare these opportunities are to win a championship. They come once a year if you’re very lucky, so I just want to make the most of it.”