By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor
Five years ago, Carl Edwards entered Homestead with a chance at his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship only to lose in a heartbreaking tiebreaker to Tony Stewart. After winning at Texas two weeks ago, Edwards will now have his shot at redemption as one of the four drivers in the mix for the championship.
Entering the final three races of the 2011 season, Edwards had built an eight point lead over Stewart, only to have Stewart’s herculean effort of winning two of the last three races to Edwards’ three second place finishes put the two in a tie at season’s end. As a result of his five wins to Edwards’ one win, Stewart was awarded the championship, leaving Edwards wondering “What If?”
With Stewart retiring following the season finale at Homestead, that 2011 championship battle between Edwards and Stewart has replayed on television at times throughout the week, so Edwards took the opportunity to tune in and use the footage of that race as motivation for his championship fight to come on Sunday evening.
“You know, I got to my hotel the other night in New York, flipping through the channels, I was like, what the hell is that on the TV, and it was that race, and I thought — I sat and watched it, and I thought, man, this is really motivating. I really, really want to win this one. So yeah, I guess it’s a motivator, and I thought the experience was great,” said Edwards
“I was just thinking that while we were sitting here last time I had this opportunity, it was just against two guys. This is much more dynamic and probably in a lot of ways going to be tougher. It’s different, but I feel like that experience was very good. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a lot of fun.”
“At first I thought, man, I don’t want to watch this, and then I watched it, and I thought, this is good for me. I need to get to remember what that was like and remember — and get a glimpse and a view of how important this is, and it really was. It was motivating. When I shut it off, I was really ready to race right then.”
Along with Edwards having the motivation to redeem himself from falling short in 2011, his crew chief Dave Rogers has also fallen short of the championship during his time on top of the pit box and knows exactly what Edwards is going through entering Homestead.
“We’ve both been in situations where we’ve come up short, and we know what it’s like to lose. Now we want to go down there and try to figure out how to win it. You know, like I said in the opening statement, one of the greatest strengths of this team is the commitment to one another and trying to put everything on the line for each other, and I know Carl was disappointed last year that he fell short. The 11 was disappointed last year that we fell short, but now we’re teamed up together, our first year together, we’re going down there with the option to win it, and we’re just excited about it,” said Rogers.
With both Edwards and Rogers having felt the heartbreak of losing a championship in the past, should they be able to win their first title together on Sunday, victory will be that much sweeter.