Provided he can survive the likely carnage that will hit at Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday, Carl Edwards will advance into the Eliminator round in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing.
Edwards has flown a bit under the radar this Chase. But, with finishes of fifth and eighth in the first two races of the Contender round, Edwards currently sits fifth in points, 19 clear of Kasey Kahne in eighth, as he looks to advance.
Edwards didn’t know what to expect of the new format heading into it, but has liked what he’s seen thus far.
“I had no clue what to think. This format surprised me,” Edwards told reporters on a NASCAR teleconference Tuesday. “I didn’t think this was possible. The only thing I knew, I knew Homestead would be extremely interesting. If you would have said Charlotte would end the way it did, I would have never guessed that.
“I guarantee you Brian France is kicking back with his seat up, because right now this is working. All the teams are trying their hardest. From that point of view, it’s pretty amazing.”
The post-race drama from Charlotte helped to produce the highest-rated TV broadcast in this year’s Chase, although it was still down slightly from 2013 (3.4 to 3.1; announced Tuesday).
Edwards said the pressure has been amplified due to the new format.
“It’s gone from a full season, to a 10-race season, to now a series of 3-race seasons,” he said. “There’s no place to hide if you have a bad race with this format. It’s about as chaotic as it could be.”
He hopes that now that NASCAR has found a new format, that it sticks with it for the long haul.
“It’s a paradigm shift. But I don’t know if you would have seen the intensity at Charlotte (under the old format),” he explained. “I hope we look back and say we got it right and stick with it. There’s a lot of credibility to be had with something that’s the right format, and stays for a while.”
Heading into Talladega this weekend, needing only an 18th place finish or better to advance, Edwards said it’s not that easy a task.
“It sounds simple to do but isn’t at Talladega. It poses a bigger risk than most race tracks,” he said. “You’re literally in a pack of cars. One mistake, one parts failure could affect you. You’re not just subject to your own mistakes. You could finish 40th even if you do everything right.
“But I think everyone will go there and be very professional,” he added. “I hope you wouldn’t see any on-track retaliation at Talladega. There’s so much potential for collateral damage. My gut is that it will go smoothly. Martinsville, if there are hard feelings, that’s where you’ll see most of that dealt with.”
Edwards is Roush Fenway’s last possible title contender, with Greg Biffle having been eliminated after the Dover round.