Desperate times for Carl Edwards

July, 17, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For weeks we've been hearing Carl Edwards tell us how close his team is to performing at a high level. For weeks we've been hearing him say the struggles of the No. 99 team have nothing to do with a hangover from losing the 2011 title on a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart.

For weeks I've been saying Edwards was kidding himself.

Tuesday's announcement that Chad Norris will replace Bob Osborne as crew chief doesn't sound like something a team close to turning the corner would do.

It reeks of desperation.

And it should have happened a lot sooner.

Edwards, winless in the past 52 races and 11th in points, has been a nonfactor this season. Outside the 206 laps he led at Richmond, a race he could have won had he not jumped a restart, he's led one lap.

His average finish is 14.3, on pace for the third worst of his career after recording a career-best average 9.3 a year ago. He has only two top-5s a year after posting 19 -- 10 by this point.

If you weren't looking for him Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he finished 18th, you wouldn't have known he was in the race.

You can't call it a RFR performance problem, because teammate Matt Kenseth is first in points and Greg Biffle is third. Each of them has won a race and contended in others.

Edwards needed a change just like Denny Hamlin needed a change after coming so close to winning the 2010 title with Mike Ford, something that took that team a year to realize.

The release doesn't say that. The release says Osborne has issues with his health that necessitate a change in roles. Not to make light of the health issues, which are serious enough and will come out later when Osborne is out of pocket for an extended time, but this was a move that would have been made regardless.

For the health of the 99 team, for the health of Edwards, a change was needed.

"There was clearly concern about performance,'' Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark said.

The frustration has been building in Edwards for some time. It became almost comical on Friday at New Hampshire when Edwards was asked if he did all qualifying runs in the first practice instead of work on race setups.

"It's never good when people ask, 'Did you do all qualifying runs?' '' Edwards said. "That means you were slow. There's nothing worse than people come over and say, 'Man, you still in race trim?' No. That's as fast as we can go."

He laughed. But inside you know it was eating at Edwards, who has gone from three poles and an average start of 9.4 in 2011 to one pole and an average start of 16.4.

The good news for Edwards is that he's only one win from one of the two wild-card spots and he has two tracks -- Atlanta and Richmond -- where he's almost always a threat. The bad news is he's really only been a threat to win once all year.

But it can be done. Edwards reminded us of that at New Hampshire when he mentioned Stewart last season going from a nonfactor with no wins to champion with a record five Chase wins.

"That whole 14 team and what they did last year showed all of us that it's not over until it's over,'' Edwards said. "If you can make it into the Chase, truly, just by making it in, you have as good a shot as anyone for the championship.''

Norris had better find speed quick for Edwards to make the Chase. He also better find chemistry. The last time Edwards and Osborne split, seven races into 2006, they were back together for the final two races after Edwards missed the Chase.

At the time, they said they were better together than apart.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and these are desperate times for Edwards.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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