Roush says Edwards ready to win title

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jack Roush isn’t one to keep his opinions to himself.

But Carl Edwards was obviously taken aback when the co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing looked over at the driving star after last Sunday’s victory at Pocono and made a surprising comment. “I’ll look at Carl when I say this, and he can slap me if he wants,” Roush said. “He wasn’t ready to win a championship, I think, until this year.

“I think, this year, he can go head-to-head with Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, with anybody else that’s there. And I think he can close the deal.”

That was news to Edwards, in his fifth season driving for Roush and with points finishes of third and ninth on his resume.

“I understand what Jack is saying,” Edwards noted. “I don’t necessarily agree 100 percent, but I get the point.

“I’ll put it this way: I feel like I’m better as a race car driver than I’ve ever been. I don’t know if I wasn’t ready to win a championship or something like that, but I can tell you that I feel like I’ve learned a lot.”

Kyle Busch has garnered most of the headlines this season, winning seven of the first 21 races and building a 176-point lead over runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. with just five races remaining before the start of the Chase for the championship.

But it could be argued that Edwards has had the next best season, winning four times and sitting third in the points.

If the 10-race Chase were to begin this week, the seeding of the 12 eligible drivers — with each awarded 10 bonus points for every victory — Busch would be on top and Edwards would begin the postseason in second, just 30 points behind.

Roush, considered a strong judge of driving talent, has accumulated two Cup titles, two Nationwide championships — one by Edwards last year — and one truck title.

So he has a pretty good idea how championships are won and who wins them.

“The championship ultimately winds up being determined by how well you do when things go bad,” Roush said. “(It’s) when you have to say, ‘My car’s not right, we’ve had a little wreck,’ you know, something’s happened.

“Do you go on and self-destruct or do you manage to be in the frame of mind where you can go on and get the most out of it?”

Heading to Watkins Glen this week, Roush Fenway also has Biffle eighth in the standings.

Roush, who also fields Cup cars for 2003 champion Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan, praised Kenseth and his crew chief, Chip Bolin, who got caught out on strategy Sunday. Kenseth finished 11th, falling to 13th in the standings, just 11 points behind Clint Bowyer, 19 behind Kevin Harvick and 35 in front of Ragan in the battle to make the Chase.

“Matt’s done a great with Chip,” he said. “Right now, they and Carl and Bob are in the same league with the best. Unless you’ve got that level of maturity and wisdom and presence and experience that gives you that, within the organization, having a lot of speed in the car, being able to win a lot of races, is not going to do it.

“When things go bad, you’re going to disintegrate. Carl is going to be able to (overcome) that this year. I’m real confident.”

And, Roush, who had all five of his drivers at the time in 2005, still has high hopes for veterans Biffle and Kenseth and second-year Cup driver Ragan, too.

“I have hopes still of getting David Ragan in (the Chase), which will be real exciting,” Roush said. “Of course, Matt and Greg will make a good accounting of themselves, too. They’re in championship form. The organizations look great.”