Carl Edwards wants to give Jack Roush the ultimate thank you and going-away present: a Sprint Cup championship

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CHICAGO – So much has been made this season about how Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants to win this year’s Sprint Cup championship not only for himself, but also as a parting gift for crew chief Steve Letarte.

Letarte is leaving Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season to join NBC as a NASCAR analyst in 2015.

But there’s another driver in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup that is equally focused on giving the biggest parting gift he can to someone who, had it not been for his faith and believe in Edwards’ talent and ability, Cousin Carl knows all too well he would not be where he’s at today in the world of NASCAR.

Of course, Edwards is talking about team owner Jack Roush. It was Roush who discovered Edwards racing on Midwest short tracks in and around his native Columbia, Mo.

It was Roush that gave Edwards his big break in the Camping World Truck Series.

And then when Jeff Burton left, it was Roush who promoted Edwards to the Sprint Cup Series – and the rest is history.

There admittedly were some initial hard feelings between the pair when Edwards told Roush a few months back that he would not leaving the RFR stable for a new opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015.

To put it mildly, Jack did not take the news very well at first.

But now, Edwards’ pending departure, as well as veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig’s plan to step down at season’s end and into more of a consultancy role, Edwards and Roush are determined to make their final season together a championship-winning season.

“We know that when Homestead’s over, that’s it, this chapter will be closed,” Edwards said. “In a way, it’s kind of neat to see everybody rally around and want to go do this when it’s our last shot at it.”

In a way, Edwards is looking to complete some unfinished business from three years ago. He gave Tony Stewart everything he could handle in the 2011 Chase, even tied Stewart for the points lead after the season finale at Homestead.

But Stewart ultimately won his third career Cup crown, while Edwards fell short of his first, by virtue of a first tiebreaker: Stewart had five wins to just one for Edwards.

“That whole year, we were very good,” Edwards said. “(Then-crew chief) Bob Osborne was on his game. We were doing a real good job with our strategy, our pit stops, my restarts. We were fast enough that I could race right at the edge without making mistakes and perform real well.

“That’s the same thing this year … and you have to do that for 10 races. You have to be perfect with this format.”

While new opportunities and different ways of doing things await in 2015 for Edwards at his soon-to-be new team, Joe Gibbs Racing, Edwards is putting all his effort into rewarding Roush for everything he’s done for him over the years.

“I think there’s three reasons our team could do well,” Edwards said. “The first one is our pit crew is very solid, we’re very good, I don’t think we’ll make mistakes, we can beat people there.

“(Second) Jimmy Fennig is as good or better than any crew chief that’s ever been on top of the box with calling the race, so I think we will get the best finishes possible.

“(Third) I believe my experience in the Chase, the things I’ve gone through, I think that I’m going to be able to do a really good job of not making mistakes on the racetrack. Those are the three reasons why I think we’re going to be good.”

But, there is a caveat to all that, Edwards concedes.

“The thing we really need is we just need more speed,” Edwards said. “If we can keep working at the direction we’re working and three, four races in we’re still in the hunt and we start getting faster, then I think we can be a real threat for the championship – but we have to do all four things really well.”

And even though Edwards, Fennig and Roush will all go in different directions at season’s end, they’re kind of like the Three Musketeers heading into the Chase:

One for all and all for one.

“I’ve been really surprised in a good way at how little impact my announcement of leaving has made,” Edwards said. “With our day-to-day stuff, the meetings, the way we work together at the racetrack, nothing has changed.

“I think that says a lot of the professionalism at Roush Fenway Racing. … The work is there and the desire to win is there. Every one of my crew guys, we’ve all talked about it. Everyone’s on board.

“I think with Jimmy Fennig announcing his retirement, it kind of puts us all in the same boat, so to speak. We all know this is the last year we’re going to do this together, so let’s just make it a good one.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2