Driver had hoped for more live ammo |
Driver had hoped for more live ammo

By Anthony Andro -
Friday, Oct. 09, 2009

Driver Carl Edwards squeezes off a round at Elm Fork Shooting Sports on Thursday in Dallas. In the background is the driver's rival at the range, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

DALLAS – Texas Motor Speedway officials decided to play a joke on Carl Edwards on Thursday for a media event at a shooting range.

They loaded Edwards’ gun with blanks. While it was a funny gag, it was also fitting.

It’s been the preseason favorite who has been firing blanks this season in his bid for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

One year after winning a series-high nine Cup races and finishing second in the standings, Edwards has gone winless and is 10th in points as the series heads to California for Sunday’s Pepsi 500.

It’s not exactly the kind of position he expected to be in when the season started.

"We felt like at this point we’d be vying for the point lead," Edwards said. "It’s been a real frustrating year. We got off to a start where [Roush Fenway Racing teammate] Matt Kenseth won the first two races [and] I thought this is great, this is spectacular, this is going to be our year."

It hasn’t happened.

The two wins by Kenseth — at Daytona and California — have been the only two victories by a Ford driver this season. Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle are the only Ford drivers who made the Chase. The Chevrolet teams, cars and drivers — with 15 wins — have dominated the series.

The top four cars in the Chase are Chevys and Biffle is the highest Ford, sitting eighth in points. Edwards, who made the Chase on the strength of 12 top-10 finishes, is 165 points behind leader Mark Martin.

Jimmie Johnson is the only driver in the history of the Chase to make up that deficit with seven races to go when he won the title in 2006.

Edwards knows he has his work cut out.

"If we can go out and win the next four races, I feel like we’d have something," Edwards said. "We’ve got to get on it. Right now there’s still hope for the championship, but we’ve got to run well."

He believes his team can still do it.

Edwards had a three-race stretch in the spring when he didn’t finish better than 24th and dropped to 12th in the standings. But he followed that with four finishes of seventh or better and he feels like the Fords are gaining ground on the Chevys.

Since the Chase started, his car has been decent, but he hasn’t been able to keep pace with the Chasers who have been piling up top-10 finishes. He has just one in the first three playoff races.

"I never, ever give up," he said. "As long as it’s mathematically possible, then you can’t give up. I understand. I realize the chances of the championship being won by our Aflac team keep getting smaller and smaller. We have to close that number."

The all-or-nothing strategy might work best for Edwards.

He tried to bounce his car off the wall to pass Johnson last year in a Chase race at Kansas and closed the season with three wins in the final four races. That might be the approach he has to take from this point.

"If we leave California with a 150- or 160-point deficit, points racing is done," said Edwards, who swept the races at Texas Motor Speedway last year and has won three times at the track. "We’ve got to go out and take chances. To make those points up, we’re going to have to do some dramatic things."