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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Sparta

Defending champ Edwards still hot

Missouri native has four top-10s in 2004

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

SPARTA, Ky. (July 2004) – Sometimes, celebrating a race victory means more than just spinning tires. On Feb. 13 at Daytona International Speedway, it also meant a backflip at the finish line for Carl Edwards. The 24-year-old landed his now-trademark maneuver following a victory in the season opener of NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck Series.

KSP July Cover

July Cover of Ky.
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If things go right for Edwards, he might just be turning flips again at Kentucky Speedway. He will compete there on July 10 in “The Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers.” Last year, Edwards took the checkered flag in the truck race at the Sparta, Ky., track, edging out veterans Ted Musgrave and Dennis Setzer, who came in second and third, respectively.
In celebration, he parked on the finish line, mounted the truck cab and flipped off the back of it in front of 46,194 cheering race fans. “The fans seemed to like it,” Edwards said in a June 8 phone interview from the Roush Racing garage in Mooresville, N.C. This season is his second with Roush in the No. 99 Ford. New is primary sponsor Superchips.
Although NASCAR asked Edwards to keep his flips on the ground at Daytona, he’s not promising to stay off the truck if he wins again. “I guarantee if we win a race, you’ll be seeing me on the truck,” said Edwards, who learned to do backflips on a high school buddy’s trampoline.
Last season was a series of successes for Edwards. He won three races, first at Kentucky and then back-to-back at Indianapolis and Nashville, Tenn. Of 25 starts he finished inside the top-10 15 times, ending the year eighth in points. Not bad for a rookie and obviously the kind of record that easily clinched him the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title. It was the cherry on top of a very memorable season.

Carl Edwards

Photo by Don Ward

Carl Edwards discusses
last year's victory during
a June 29 press conference.

This year is looking just as sweet. After the first six races of the season, Edwards had scooped up four top-10 finishes, including second place at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, where an unfortunate twist of fate cost him the victory in the last minutes of the race. Leading the field, Edwards had slowed for a caution light four laps from the finish when the No. 18 Dodge driven by Chad Chaffin blew a tire. Inexplicably, the caution light flashed on and off quickly, giving Setzer, who had been trailing closely behind in second, the opportunity to pass.
“I thought I was going crazy. I didn’t even consider that the light could have gone on and back off,” said Edwards, who initially thought he may have imagined the caution. NASCAR officials later reviewed in-car camera footage that proved that the caution light had in fact been triggered.
The organization subsequently issued an apology to Edwards, his fans and Roush Racing but did not modify the official race results.
“As the leader of the race, it’s your responsibility to slow the pace when the caution light comes on,” said Edwards, who despite being vindicated by NASCAR retained his second-place finish. “I’m just glad that NASCAR said that the light did come on and apologized for the incident. I felt like I did everything by the book.”
Coincidentally, Chaffin, whose blown tire might have generated the caution at Lowe’s, went on to pick up his first truck series victory the following weekend at Dover. Edwards, who started from the pole there, finished 14th after running out of gas and stalling in the pits under caution three-quarters of the way through the race. “That was a bad luck situation,” Edwards said. “But even on bad days we’re in the top 15.”
And as Travis Kvapil proved last year, it doesn’t take a lot of race wins to become champion. It can ultimately mean being consistent, which Edwards hopes to be. “I think that’s what it’s going to take to win a championship,” he said.
Of course, it also helps to have the backing of powerhouse Roush Racing, which picked up Edwards last year for his first full truck season. In 2002 he drove for MB Motorsports in seven truck series races, including his first race at the Kentucky Speedway, where he finished 18th.
In addition to Edwards, Roush also fields NASCAR veterans Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth, all of whom the young driver said have been more than willing to share their expertise.
“They’re great. They’ll sit down and go over with me any particulars of any race track. At least one of them has won at every track. That’s a really helpful thing,” he said.
A native of Columbia, Mo., Edwards now lives just three minutes from the Roush garage in Mooresville, “Race City USA.” The small southern town is home to several racing teams and a host of drivers. With so many in one place, you never know who you’re going to run into, according to Edwards. “You’ve got to be careful who you cut off in traffic,” he joked.
It’s a different story on the track, however, where Edwards will need to cut off the competition to stay in championship contention. He stood second in points behind Setzer following the June 19 O’Reilly 200 in Memphis.
But as Edwards will tell you, second place doesn’t warrant any backflips.

• For more information on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "The Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers," visit the Kentucky Speedway website.

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