Edwards anticipating series' debut
Carl Edwards knows he has the opportunity of a lifetime with Roush Racing.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
DETROIT -- Nextel Cup's newest driver, Carl Edwards, knows he's living large after running around on fairground dirt tracks in Missouri just a few years ago.
Edwards replaced Jeff Burton at Roush Racing last week and will make his first NASCAR Cup appearance when he starts in the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on Sunday.
A Craftsman Truck rookie in 2003, Edwards is sad to see Burton leave Roush but didn't need to be asked twice to join NASCAR's premier series.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime," said Edwards, who until two seasons ago was a part-time substitute teacher driving on quarter-mile, unpaved tracks in America's Heartland. "I'm very excited about the opportunity that Jack Roush has given me. I'm looking forward to working with my crew chief Bob Osborne and the entire crew of the No. 99 Ford Taurus."
Only four years ago, recalled Edwards, he was rewiring the lights on a small race trailer he owned at a friend's workshop in Columbia, Mo.
"The trailer was my biggest investment," said Edwards. "It cost me about $1,500. That was a lot of money to me."
In a million years, said Edwards, he never thought he'd race on asphalt, let alone do it in a Nextel Cup car with a leading team.
Edwards, signed as a Craftsman driver by Roush in 2003, will run the remaining 14 races on the Nextel Cup schedule as well as driving his No. 99 Superchips Ford F-150 in the truck series. It's a task Edwards thinks he can handle.
"I'm going to try to take the Cup car to victory lane," said Edwards, who was originally slated to replace Mark Martin in a year or two when the veteran was expected to step out of the No. 6 Viagra Cup car. "But I'm going to be realistic. I want to make a concerted effort to finish laps. The last thing I want to do is get in the way of anyone who may be racing for a championship. Of course, if we are in a position at the end of the race to win, we'll go for it."
Edwards gratefully accepted his understudy role at Roush, forming a close bond with Martin, who joined Roush in 1988.
"Mark has been a huge help to me," said Edwards. "He's given me a lot of advice already about tracks and how to run them."
He also confided in Burton.
"Jeff is a spectacular race car driver," said Edwards. "He's also an awesome guy. I'm going to talk to him and some other drivers about the race at Michigan."
Edwards, who turned 25 Sunday, raced on tiny budgets for years; now he's running in the big leagues with one of NASCAR's best-funded teams.
"I wake up and pinch myself," said Edwards, who finished 20th in the truck race at Nashville on Saturday but is still fourth in points. "This is the most exciting thing in the world to happen to me."