Edwards hopes new crew chief spells fast start at Daytona

Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013

Carl Edwards has an ace in the hole for the Daytona 500.

After last season, he needs one.

Edwards, who lost the 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship in a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart, went winless in 2012 and didn’t qualify for the Chase for the Cup.

“I would like to put last year out of my memory and not think about it too much,” Edwards said Thursday during a break in testing at Daytona International Speedway. “Not in the last few years have I been this excited to go racing.

“I think it is probably because my off-season has been a little longer than most. I didn’t go to Las Vegas (for the banquet), so I have been ready to go.”

So has his trump card, new crew chief Jimmy Fennig.

Matt Kenseth’s departure from Roush Fenway Racing allowed Edwards’ No. 99 team to Fennig, who had been Kenseth’s crew chief.

Fennig won three races with Kenseth last season, including the Daytona 500 and the fall race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Fennig, Edwards said, is anxious to start fast.

“I know Jimmy wants to come right out of the box with a couple wins and get locked in the Chase, and so do I,” Edwards said. “That is the first thing on our minds, to get a couple wins and get in the Chase.

“It is nice to have the Daytona 500 championship winning crew chief in our corner.”

It certainly can’t hurt.

Edwards hasn’t won in the Cup series since his win at Las Vegas in March 2011.

“Thanks to a lot of (the media) and a lot of the fans I have heard every possible reason for my lack of winning last year,” Edwards said. “I have looked at a lot of it and what I have done is just dedicated myself to being the very best driver I can be.

“For me, this is going to be a year of hard work and dedication for one purpose – to win races and the championship. I am working on everything I can.”

This week’s three-day test got off to a slow start for Edwards and his RFR teammates, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Biffle was the fastest of the three drivers in Thursday afternoon’s testing session, posting a lap at 191.804 mph in a single-car run. He was 15th fastest overall.

Edwards was 28th fastest, at 190.545 mph.

“Our speedway program has been pretty spectacular,” Edwards said. “I know when I go back into the garage I am going to talk with the crew chief that won half the speedway races last year, including the Daytona 500.

“We didn’t get the performance we wanted but when I take a step back and truly look at it I think we have a pretty good situation now.

“You never know. We could go out and win 10 races or have trouble.

“I feel like we have stacked the deck in our favor.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

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