NASCAR fans know Carl Edwards just completed another fantastic year, almost winning the Sprint Cup title. In fact, he was paper-thin close to Champion Tony Stewart by earning equal points for the year, only to lose the tie to Stewarts’ five wins, compared to only one win for his season total. But did you know there’s more than meets the eye to this versatile driver?
Starting with Carl Edwards early days, did you know his father was an accomplished racer as well? Carl Edwards Sr. raced modified stock cars and USAC midgets for four decades, winning over 200 feature events at several Midwestern tracks.
Carl Edwards Sr. recalls a time when he was, shall we say ‘creative’ with the rules to give Carl Jr. time behind the wheel before he was the required 16 years of age. “You had to have a drivers license, so we would sneak him in the back of the truck. When it got dark we would put a helmet on him and put him in the race car. They all thought it was me, said Edwards Sr., who still lives in Columbia, Missouri where Carl Edwards Jr. grew up. After Carl Jr. won a race in Godfrey, Illinois and gave a victory interview, Carl Sr., knew he had to be more creative to get his son into tracks so he could continue to race. He even went so far as to get a fake drivers license for his son, still under the required age for driving in races.
Carl Edwards Jr. actually started his racing career at the age of 13, driving four-cylinder cars and collecting 18 feature wins in just three years. Over the next six years, Carl Edwards would gain his experience in Modified (two-barrel), Dirt Late Model class, NASCAR’s Weekly Racing Series, Pro-Modified (four-barrel) division, three Sportsman division races (winning all three), eleven Baby Grand division races, and five USAC Silver Crown Series pavement races. Throughout these years, Edwards would pick up another, 40 wins, 3 Championships and two Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
It was in 2002 Carl Edwards caught the eye of Jack Roush while driving in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for MB Motorsports, earning a top-ten finish in Kansas and showcasing his driving skills to one of NASCAR’s elite teams. Edwards also ran one Busch series event that year.
|Jack Roush of Roush-Fenway Racing
Jack Roush signed Carl Edwards to run full-time in the Truck series and he won the Rookie-of-the-Year along with three race wins in 2003. The following year, Edwards won three more races including the season opener at Daytona and finished fourth in the point standings. Edwards also ran one Busch series event in 2004.
Carl Edwards’ first Cup appearance would happen in August of the same year at the season’s second Michigan race. Earning a tenth place finish, Edwards joins Matt Kenseth, Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte and Kyle Petty as one of only five drivers to finish inside the top-ten in their first career Cup start.
How many of us recall that in 2005, Carl Edwards technically tied for second in the seasons’ Cup point standings with Greg Biffle, just 35 points behind first place champion, Jimmie Johnson. Greg Biffle would end up taking the second-place spot with six wins in the season. Despite this great finish in his first year, Edwards was not eligible for Rookie-of-the-year honors because of his partial 2004 schedule in the Cup series.
And did you know how many Cup records Carl Edwards would earn in his first full-time year? Let’s start with Edwards becoming the only driver in history to get his first win in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup in the same weekend at the March Atlanta races. Edwards would also go on to sweep both cup races at Atlanta, a track first. With Edwards second win of the season he would become only the second driver in history to win on Poconos’ tri-oval on his first visit, with Richard Petty winning the inaugural Cup race at the unique track. These accomplishments in Edwards first full year in NASCAR’s top series’ was history in the making for the young driver.
Edwards won his first title in 2007 as the Nationwide series champion and would finish second the following year by only 21 points, the fourth closest finish in the series history. In 2008, Edwards also finished second to Jimmie Johnson in the Cup series despite his personal high nine wins for the season. Three of those wins were earned in the last four races of the Chase. Do you remember Edwards’ accomplishments in 2008 being recognized with the Tag Heuer Top Racecar Driver of the Year Award? Or perhaps you remember the National Motorsports Press Association honoring Edwards by voting him as the Richard Petty Driver of the Year. Edwards was also NASCAR.com’s Driver of the Year.
|Carl Edwards wreck in Tallagdega 2009
Edwards’ fans may recall 2009 was not a banner year for Carl Edwards in the Cup series, finishing 11th in the Chase standings at the close of the season. And, at the spring Talladega race, many remember one of the most violent crashes in NASCAR history when Brad Keselowski spun Edwards car, bouncing off Ryan Newman and flipping airborne into the catch fence. Fans also remember Carl emerging from the car to the cheers of the crowd and sprinting on foot to the start/finish line. But did you know eight fans were injured in that incident? The worst injury was a woman with a broken jaw; she was airlifted to a nearby hospital.
In May of 2009, Carl Edwards signed a multi-year contract to remain with Roush-Fenway Racing with Aflac as the full-time sponsor. But did you know this was the largest sponsorship contract that Roush-Fenway Racing ever signed up to that point? How many Edwards’ fans know that in the Nationwide series the same year, Carl achieved his best statistical season with five wins, 23 top-five and 30 top-ten finishes?
After a less than stellar start to his 2010 season, Carl Edwards found himself 12th in the Cup series standings by the end of June. It would be several months before Edwards would end his 70-race winless streak by winning the last two races of the season in Phoenix and Homestead earning a fourth-place standing for the season. In the Nationwide series, how many remember it was Edwards winning the first Nationwide race at Road America? Some may also remember he did not celebrate with his typical back flip, because in the same weekend Scott Kalitta was killed in a horrifying NHRA accident and Edwards did not feel it was appropriate to celebrate his victory.
And of course the 2011 season is fresh in all our minds as just completed with Carl narrowly losing the Cup championship to Tony Stewart. Many also know Carl Edwards re-signed with Roush-Fenway Racing in August. But did you know the deal is reportedly worth over $40 million with Ford convincing Edwards to stay with RFR for the remainder of his career? Also, we know Carl was reportedly courted by Joe Gibbs Racing. But did you hear the rumors of JGR offering Edwards $8 million per year with a $10 million signing bonus?
Also, with the 2011 season coming to a close, it may have slipped past a few of us that if NASCAR had not changed the points system back in 2004, Carl Edwards would have two championships under his belt. He would have won the championship in 2008 breaking up Jimmie Johnson’s now historic five-time championship run and 2011 would have been his second championship under the old point system. For Edwards’ fans, this is the “If only” season that “could” have been.
While veteran fans may know some of these additional Carl Edwards discoveries, hopefully there are a few new nuggets you can add to your Edwards trivia reservoir.
For instance, did you know that Carl Edwards, along with a close friend started their own company record label in high school called Back40 Records? Edwards is now the sole owner and spends some of his off track time promoting his company and label.
|Dr. Katherine “Kate” Downey and Carl Edwards
Also, Edwards once dated Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Amanda Beard. We do know that relationship did not work out as Carl is now happily married to Dr. Katherine “Kate” Downey and they have two beautiful children Anne Katherine, and Michael Lee. But did you know it was actually Kenny Wallace, during a 2008 NASCAR Victory Lane episode, that leaked the news in a conversational manner that Carl was engaged to Dr. Kate?
Many of us know Carl is first cousin to NASCAR driver Ken Schrader, earning him the nickname of “Cousin Carl.” But did you know Carl took his cousin’s advice to get dirt track experience before entering the world of NASCAR?
And speaking of cousins, did you hear the rumor that Carl is also a cousin with NFL Quarterback, Trent Edwards? Apparently in an AOL Sports interview, Carl was asked if his cousin, Trent Edwards has the same allergies… When Carl replied with “My old cousin Trent…he probably has the same kind of stuff I do,” Roush Fenway’s Senior Account Manager Randy Fuller indicated he didn’t know they were related. Carl’s response…”I’m not. I’m just rollin’ with it.” Ok, so that one really is just a rumor.
What about Carl Edwards the actor? On the Fox TV series hit “24” he played Jim Hill, a Homeland Security Agent. His parts were actually taped the same weekend of the Auto Club 500. Carl Edwards has also appeared on the Bill Engvall Show as a club manager and in the movie “Small Pond” he portrayed Kenny. Did you know Edwards’ has another acting role coming up in 2013? The projected air date is that summer, in a Civil War-themed television mini-series, “To Appomattox.”
These are not Carl Edwards’ only television appearances. In November 2009, Carl appeared on “The Price is Right” presenting two NASCAR-theme showcases for the game show. Anyone know who were the lucky winners? And of course, Carl has appeared in numerous talk shows and magazines throughout his career.
In June 2010, as a fitness advocate, Carl Edwards was appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, a committee of volunteer athletes, chefs, physicians, and fitness experts advising the President via the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Being honest, who knew this? According to the Federal Aviation Administration registry, Edwards is also licensed as an Airline Transport Pilot with a multi-engine rating. Apparently this license authorizes Edwards to pilot Cessna Citation jets.
So, with all these talents and interests, how did Carl Edwards make it into the sport of NASCAR? It wasn’t enough to have a father hand off his love of racing to his son. Nor was it enough to be related to his first cousin Kenny Schrader. Carl did some creative leg work to get his name into the hands of the right people. Edwards would pass out his business cards to NASCAR teams saying, “If you’re looking for a driver, then you’re looking for me.” That card made it into the hands of his current team owner Jack Roush and as they say, the rest is history.
We all know Carl Edwards isn’t finished writing his NASCAR history and as fans, we are looking forward to seeing many more seasons of racing with this drivers’ star continuing to rise.