Edwards hopes luck on his side at upcoming tracks
Certainly, there has been some swapping. There have been some tumbles. There was even an ill-timed dismount two weeks ago.
But Carl Edwards' usual, and favorite, gymnastic feat has been missing all season -- no backflips, which means no victories to prompt his unique post-victory celebration.
But while the team has struggled, recent performances suggest a revival of the wild and fortuitous ride the young Roush racer had in his first full season last year, while finishing third in the standings.
"I've learned a lot about racing and there are just so many things involved," he said. "We won some races and all of a sudden it's like we'll be leading somewhere or have the fastest car and something stupid would happen. The biggest thing for us is just not to get down on ourselves and we perform really well."
After two sub-40 finishes in the first four races, Edwards was mired in 30th in the points. Team owner Jack Roush orchestrated a crew chief shift, which made for a change in Edwards' ear on race day when new chief Wally Brown took over. Shortly after the switch, the No. 99 team rode six top-10 finishes to a fairly steady climb up the charts, all the way to 13th at this point and knocking on the door to that coveted 10th spot, a place which will represent a ticket to the Chase 11 races from now.
Evidence of the confidence exuded by the team is easily found in their disappointment over last weekend's finish at Michigan.
"Like Wally said it's cool to be upset about having the fastest car most of the day and running second," Edwards said. "That's pretty neat. That says a lot about our expectations and I feel like if we can just go ahead and kind of get on a little bit of a roll. I'm not too sure about Sonoma, but I know Chicago and Daytona and stuff, if we can just go out and have a little bit of good luck we'll be great. We'll win some races for sure."
Just running solidly without any crazy happenings would be a plus for starters. Even during the climb upwards in the rankings, the team has had quirky moments. For instance, there was two weeks ago at Pocono when, while on pit road, the jack slipped out from under Edwards' Ford and the car fell. Edwards fell off the lead lap as the crew scrambled to get back in gear.
"I've seen the jack slip out before, but it slipped out and nothing on the jack caught -- usually the jack will catch it a little bit and there was just no way," Brown said. "They couldn't get anything underneath the car to jack it up. We were in rough shape there."
Now that Edwards has seen misfortune visit him at some of the least expected times -- for instance at Pocono, where he generally loves to race -- he's looking forward to some of the tracks that have given him trouble in the past in hopes that the change in fortunes works both ways.
He finished 38th in his lone try at Sonoma last year. But with confidence and momentum back on his side, he's gearing up for Sunday's road course event, and the opportunity to keep on climbing.
"I am really looking forward to racing at Sonoma this weekend," he said. "I had the opportunity to practice out there a couple weeks ago with [road racing specialist] Boris Said. With the practice and the coaching I received from Boris we should do well. We had a great finish last weekend in Michigan and moved ourselves closer to 10th place in the point standings. Hopefully, with another good run this weekend, we can move a bit closer."
"We are still looking for our first win of the season," Brown said, "but more importantly, getting ourselves in the top 10."
Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.