For the first time since June 2005, Carl Edwards won’t be somewhere Saturday. After string of 210 starts, Edwards won’t be in a NASCAR Nationwide Series racecar.
The last time that happened came at Nashville on June 12, 2005. Friday at Infineon Raceway Edwards announced that he wouldn’t be commuting from Sonoma California to Road America at Elkhart Lake Wisconsin for Saturday’s Nationwide race; a race he won last year. Instead Edwards and Roush-Fenway Racing will keep virtually unknown driver Billy Johnson in the car for the entire event. Johnson had been scheduled to only practice and qualify the car before turning it over to Edwards for the race. Instead Johnson, who has one Nationwide Series start, 2010 at Watkins Glen, will now race.
“I think Billy will do a great job,” Edwards said. “In the end, this puts us in the best position with both teams to perform well, so I’m grateful to be able to make the change and I feel like we are doing the right thing.”
Edwards currently leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup series standings. The original plan was to qualify the Sprint Cup car at Infineon Friday and opt out of Saturday’s practice in order to head to Elkhart Lake. But after qualifying 23rd Friday Edwards will now practice the car in California.
The key to being able to make the last minute change according to Edwards was getting the sponsors to agree.
“I think this shows you just how much our sponsors and our team are able to work together and change things on the fly,” Edwards said. “The original plan was for me to miss all of practice in our Sprint Cup car in Sonoma on Saturday, but literally as we finished practice today we found out that Billy Johnson was (tops in first practice in my car) at Road America.
“We also felt like as a team that we needed more practice on the Cup side, so I called the (president and) CEO of Fastenal—Will Oberton—and without any hesitation, he said do what you need to do to have the best result and we are behind you 100 percent. It just shows that Fastenal is truly behind our whole Roush Fenway team, and we have a great relationship to be able to make this change.”
NASCAR instituted a rule change for this season that prevents drivers from scoring points in more than one series so Edwards race at Road America, for him, would have been for nothing but the win.
In the midst of one of his best seasons ever and with a slim lead in the points, Edwards’s decision to skip the Nationwide race shows that his focus is on the season ending NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. It’s that type of focus that might just carry him to his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
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