This article was originally published on MTAF Wheels, which is now dark. Thank you for enjoying it here through the Live Full Throttle Archives.
Carl Edwards may not live in a pineapple under the sea, but he was born in Columbia, Missouri, which might be just as good this weekend.
The 35-year-old driver heads to Kansas Speedway Saturday night (weather permitting) for the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 still looking for his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing. He is also looking to win at his home track for the first time in his career. This weekend just might be the perfect storm for Edwards, who considers a win at Kansas Speedway as one of the most important ones he could get.
Edwards will be looking to turn around what hasn’t exactly been a banner season to this point. It has been a rough initial season for Edwards at Gibbs, one in which he has just a single top-10 finish in the first 10 races and is coming off a finish of 32nd at Talladega last week following a late wreck. In fact, Edwards has six finishes of 17th or worse this season, while finishing the other four races between 10th and 13th.
But now, Edwards gets to head home. Or close to it, anyway. And with that trip just might be the elixir this season has needed.
Edwards has somehow failed to win at Kansas Speedway in 15 career starts, despite having 11 top-10s and six top-5s at the track. Among active drivers with more than five starts at Kansas, only Jimmie Johnson’s average finish of 9.5 beats out Edwards and his 10.1 average finish. That 10.1 average finish is the fifth-best at any track for Edwards in his career. In his last three races at Kansas, Edwards has finished 5-6-5 and has four top-5 finishes in his last eight races at the track.
The last time Joe Gibbs Racing went to victory lane at Kansas was when Matt Kenseth won the 2013 spring race. It was the second win of the season for Kenseth, who was in his first season at Joe Gibbs Racing after he had left Roush Fenway Racing – the same situation that Edwards faces this season. Kenseth’s engine failed post-race inspection and led to many penalties for the driver and the team, most of which were reversed upon appeal.
Joe Gibbs Racing had some struggles at Kansas in the next race, with Kenseth finishing 11th, but neither of the other two drivers finishing in the top-20. They started to get back on track in the spring race last season, with Kenseth finishing 10th, Kyle Busch 15th and Denny Hamlin 18th. Then it seemed as if they put it together even more at the fall race, as Busch finished 3rd, Hamlin 7th and Kenseth 13th.
For Edwards, the frustration has to be mounting. In each of the last two seasons, he already had a win by this point in the year. And last year, that also meant that he was also almost assuredly locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Now this season, Edwards sits 18th in points and is 13 points behind the 16th spot, which would be the final spot in the Chase if the season ended today. Edwards has made the Chase in seven of the last eight seasons, with 2012 being the only exception.
When the 400 miles at Kansas are finished, it just well might be Edwards who is doing a backflip out of his car. And I am sure there will be some pineapples awaiting him in victory lane.