FORTH WORTH, TEX. - Carl Edwards should feel pretty good about himself and his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford team.
After seven of the 10 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship races, Edwards sits on top of the leader board.
The 32-year-old native of Columbia, Mo., looks comfortable there, too, even though this is the first time in his seven-year Cup career that he has been this close to winning it all this late in the season.
Making him feel even more comfortable is the fact that he is coming to the AAA 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway — a race track where his name is on the winning trophy three times.
“We’ve run really well (at Texas),” Edwards said this week. “There could not be a better racetrack for us to be going to. I feel like we made it through the first seven races of the Chase better than we expected. Now we just go these last three races and go for broke.”
If the pressure of seeing his first championship on the horizon is have any effect on Edwards, he is wearing it very well. He is exuding confidence, but at the same time talking cautiously about what lies ahead.
After all his lead over a hot Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet squad is a mere eight points.
“You never know what is going to happen, especially at this point in the season,” Edwards said. “If you look at the points standings, there are five or six guys that I think have a very legitimate shot at winning this championship.
“I think you’ll see guys under that pressure try different things, maybe do different things, risk maybe a little more.”
There are many in and around the NASCAR garage who felt that prior to this season Edwards was one of those risk takers and that is what often held him back from contending for a championship before now.
His run-ins, on and off the race track with the likes of Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, have led to many a trip to the NASCAR woodshed where he was verbally spanked by series boss Mike Helton and Edwards’ own team owner Jack Roush.
This year, Edwards claims he has cooled his temper.
“Historically I’ve been a guy that could lose my composure as fast as anyone,” he admitted. “It’s not natural to me to stay calm and try to keep moving forward. My natural reaction is always to get really excited.
“But I think through some of the bad times that we’ve had, the frustrations we’ve had, I think all those things have helped me to realize that, ‘Hey, look, the goal right now is to go out and win this championship.’
“I think that adds up to a majority of the reason we’ve led the points for half of the season, those lessons, we’ve been applying them.”
He also won’t be sucked into playing the kind of mind games that go on among the points leaders.
Last week, of example, Stewart said that Edwards “should be worried” after the No. 14 team won at Martinsville.
Edwards simply dismisses such trash talk.
“I’m fine with it because I don’t participate,” he said. “My job is to go out here and do the best I can, win the championship. I just got done talking to Tony. We joked around about it a little bit.
“It is kind of fun. It’s fun to go back and forth, give each other a hard time. At the end of the day, though, I think Tony and myself would both be foolish if we thought all we had to worry about was one another.
“I think you’ve still got three or four guys behind us that are just as dangerous, maybe even more, in this championship.”
Veteran Cup driver Mark Martin is reportedly set to sign a deal for 2012 to drive part time for Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 00 Toyota currently driven by David Reutimann. According to ESPN.com Waltrip will have Martin, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. on board next season. ... Newly retired race car driver Patrick Carpentier will be returning to his hometown of Joliette, Que., as a new partner of Construction Danam Bonzai, a company that builds single-family homes and multiplexes. ... Ed Carpenter, longtime IndyCar driver with 113 career starts, has announced the formation of Ed Carpenter Racing and plans to a run a full season in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series.