Don’t ask Carl Edwards if he has any regrets about losing the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship on a tiebreaker with Tony Stewart in the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November.
The driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford said that he not only doesn’t regret the heartbreaking loss, he wouldn’t change a thing if he had it to do all over again.
Edwards, who was mobbed by hundreds of stock car racing fans Saturday during the Canadian Motorsports Expo at the International Centre in Mississauga, said he is in fact proud of the achievements of his racing team that got them to the point where the championship was decided on the final lap of the final race — something that had not happened before under the Chase for the Championship format.
“We had a lot of fun racing in that circumstance,” he said. “I felt we had the best season we have ever had. Tony Stewart just rose to the occasion.”
Stewart, of course, came out of nowhere to win five of the final 10 races in the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet, while Edwards, who led the standings for most of the season, never found victory lane in the 10-race Chase.
“To still finish it in a tie ... I never imagined that would happen,” he said. “Think about it, the chances of that happening are astronomically thin.”
To miss by that close a margin only makes him more hungry to go out this season — starting in two weeks in the Daytona 500 — and start a new championship run.
“I am motivated more than ever to know that we can go out and do that again and be even better,” Edwards said. “If we can do that it is going to be very tough for people to beat us.”
He said that if he had a wish it would have been to start the 2012 season immediately after the 2011 race at Homestead was over.
“We are ready to go racing,” Edwards said of the upcoming season. “When that race was over at Homestead, I would have gladly loaded the car up on the trailer and went straight to Daytona to start the new season.”
Just to be sure how serious he is about climbing the championship mountain again this season, Edwards noted that no one on the No. 99 Ford team thinks they can rest on what they accomplished in 2011.
“Nobody is resting on any laurels we might have earned last season,” he said. “And I think we have the best cars and best engines we have ever had.”
If there is a change from 2011 it is that RFR now has one less team to share information with. The No. 6 Ford will not run a full Sprint Cup schedule this season. And some feared this could lead to problems.
“(Team owner) Jack Roush pulled all of us aside and made sure that we knew that the change to three teams (from four) was not going to come at the expense of any engineering, any engine programs, any testing,” Edwards said. “He said we are going to keep the same staff in place that makes these cars go fast. We’ll just have one less car to take to the race track.”
Of course carrying that extra manpower can drain a team — even one as well funded as RFR — of valuable resources in a hurry.
Edwards, however, is confident that Roush can pull it off.
“I don’t know how long Jack can sustain that financially, but he is doing it and I think that it might actually make it easier on the shop guys because they don’t have to build so many race cars.”
Edwards scoffed at the suggestion that he might look back on last year and see something he might have overlooked that could have cost him the championship to Stewart.
“I am not so naive that I can’t say we could not have done better,” he said. “But it is very easy to look back and say we could have got a point here or could have got a point there but as (crew chief) Bob Osborne said in a season-ending team meeting: ‘If this Chase started tomorrow we would do the same thing; we would make the same decisions’ ... and we would just hope that Tony Stewart wouldn’t have the amazing run that he had.”
In fact for a guy who lost a championship on a tiebreaker, Edwards is full of optimism for 2012.
“I am thrilled to death that I have the chance to do it all over again,” he said.