Carl Edwards  #99
2011 STATS

NASCAR Sprint Cup | Nationwide Series
Outlook preseason rank: No. 2

So what did the racing geniuses at think of your favorite driver? Check out how writers Terry Blount, Ed Hinton, Ryan McGee, David Newton and Marty Smith as well as editors Joe Breeze and K. Lee Davis voted heading into the 2011 season. The Vote

2011 Outlook

Carl Edwards believes he has what it takes to win the Sprint Cup championship. He knows it. He can taste it.

Just don't call him the favorite.

The past two times Edwards was labeled the driver to beat he fell flat, finishing 12th in 2006 and 11th in 2009. So it's understandable that when people talk about the possibilities for this season after Edwards closed 2010 with consecutive wins following a 70-race losing streak, he shies away.

"It's really nice of people to say, but you don't know what's going to happen," said Edwards, who finished fourth in points last year. "I stand firm. Please don't pick me for a damn thing."

It's hard not to. Edwards has tied for second once and finished second outright another, showing he has the consistency it takes to end Jimmie Johnson's run of five straight championships. But history makes him wary of taking anything for granted.

"It's just the way this sport works," Edwards said. "Our team learned that you can't rest on anything. I wouldn't say we were complacent or anything like that, but we might have been a little bit unrealistic about where we stood.

"That 70-race losing streak is recent enough and it's painful enough that we haven't lifted yet. We're wide open. We're going forward as if we hadn't won those last two races, so I guess that's the thing we learned is to just keep digging."

If that wasn't incentive enough, Edwards is in a contract year. He'll be the most sought after free agent in the sport, so performance could translate into more dollar signs.

There's no reason to think Edwards can't maintain the momentum with which he closed 2010. Roush Fenway Racing as a whole stepped up performance after borrowing a page in front-end suspension from partner Richard Petty Motorsports.

"I'm confident, I'm real optimistic, but I'm also realistic," Edwards said. "In 2005 we finished the season very strongly and had a poor 2006. In 2008 we did the same thing with 2009, so I don't want to get too far out there.

"I'm very excited about it, but I don't want to get overconfident or jinx myself or get lazy. I want to stay hungry and go out here and try to win."

Edwards is more than hungry. He talks outwardly about his desire to win a title perhaps more than anyone else in the Sprint Cup garage. He makes it clear that whatever team he drives for next year will be one that puts him in the best position to win titles.

"I want to win a championship more than anything," Edwards said. "That is my mission. I know what it feels like to win races.

"I have had a great relationship with Jack Roush, and I just want to do whatever is most likely to let me go win championships. That's what I'd like to do, and the dream would be to do that at Roush in the 99 car with Aflac on board. That would be the dream, but we just have to sit down and go through everything and see where everybody is at."

Edwards has won 16 times since breaking into Cup full time with Roush in 2005. He led the series with nine victories in 2008, which made the 70-race losing streak so hard to accept.

That he came through that skid seemingly mentally stronger than before is a big reason he was picked as Johnson's biggest threat.

"I cannot explain how good that felt," Edwards said of ending the streak. "It's like, not only did we end our streak, but we made a statement that we're back and we're fast. That was good."

Just don't say it makes Edwards the favorite for this season.

"I can't pick what's going to happen this year," Edwards said. "But I do say that we are stronger than we were before."

Odds of winning it all in 2011: 4-1. Edwards seems to have replaced Denny Hamlin as the favorite to knock Johnson off his throne. He certainly has that capability, as we saw in 2008 when he rattled off nine wins and an amazing 27 top-10s to finish second.

2010 Review

2010 Preseason Rank: 6

Edwards turned what could have been an average season into a pretty good one with two wins to close the season and five of his 19 top-10s during the Chase. Even before that he wasn't having a horrible year, turning in one of the best summer stretches of any driver. He just was having trouble finding Victory Lane. Edwards also collected a career-high three poles and had an 11.8 average finish, the second-best of his career.

Grade: B-plus. He came on strong, winning the final two races after a 70-race losing streak and finishing fourth in points, to establish himself as a favorite this year.

-- David Newton

2011 Sprint Cup Stats
Complete Stats
Previous 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Races
11/20Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami21119267$296,4164420
11/13Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix2927312$210,1414310
11/6NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas2714334$361,5664310
10/30NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville9128500$123,9163610
10/23NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega1191188$128,8663410
10/15Bank of America 500 at Charlotte331334$188,0914210
10/9NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kansas pres. by Dodge520272$169,4413900
10/2NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Dover34116400$180,5664210
9/25Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire8230300$128,9413600
9/18GEICO 400 at Chicago4539267$186,8914110
Complete Race Log

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