All things considered, Carl Edwards could’ve had a much worse result to his Eliminator Round opener on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Edwards was having a middle-of-the-road Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 before he got tangled in a big crash with less than 65 laps to go that was triggered by a mechanical problem for fellow Chaser Brad Keselowski.
The incident was already in progress when Edwards came on the scene and was met by a spinning Martin Truex Jr (pictured, right). Edwards took damage to his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford but by being the first car one lap down at the time, he wound up earning the free pass to return to the lead lap.
With the help of that break, Edwards ended up finishing 20th on a day he found “pretty frustrating.”
“We planned on running a lot better than that, but at the end of the day we still came home 20th and we could have lost our minds there,” he said. “It’s not what we wanted. [Crew chief] Jimmy [Fennig] and I talked about it. We’ll go to Texas and go for the win. We’ll go to Phoenix and go for the win there and that’s all we can do.”
Considering that Edwards is now 15 points behind the fourth-place cutoff for the Sprint Cup Championship Race, it may well take a victory over the next two weeks for him to get to Homestead with a chance at the title.
The good news for him and the 99 team is that Edwards has had success on both tracks with three victories at Texas, and two more at Phoenix.
“…We missed a little bit of an opportunity, but we ran fifth at Kansas and eighth at Charlotte [1.5-mile ovals in the Contender Round],” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of wins at Texas, so there’s nothing saying we can’t go there and do it. We’ve got a test coming up this week and we’ll keep digging. These guys don’t quit.”
As he alludes to, Edwards and RFR will now shift its immediate focus to a test this week at Homestead that will also include fellow Chase teams Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Team Penske.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”