Carl Edwards worked hard both to land a ride in one of NASCAR's top three series, then to prove he belonged there.
The 32-year-old native of Columbia, Mo., debuted with strong performances in what is now the Camping World Truck Series and then steadily gained ground in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series.
He has won races in all three, contended for the Cup title and has won the Nationwide championship. He also has become a family man, having celebrated the birth of his children during his NASCAR tenure.
Through it all, he has remained the humble guy he was from the start while coming a long way in a short span. Rea White takes a look at Edwards' top-10 NASCAR accomplishments:
In 2003, in his first season with Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards (pictured watching the leaderboard as he won the pole position at Martinsville Speedway) showcased his potential in what is now the Camping World Truck Series. He won three races and earned 15 top-10 finishes, including 13 top fives, to take the Rookie of the Year honor in the series.
With his ability to run at the front, challenge for wins and capitalize on his chances, Edwards has quickly piled up purse winnings. To date, in his eighth full year of Cup competition, he has tallied more than $53.4 million in winnings.
Edwards (pictured with then-pregnant wife Kate) has long been known as a driver who's capable of getting on a roll. He can stay out of trouble, get to the front and reel off a series of points-snagging races. Perhaps nothing illustrates his potential for consistency more than the 2009 Nationwide season. In that year, Edward turned in 30 top-10 finishes in 35 starts. Twenty-three of those were top fives.
When he's not racing, Edwards has found time to participatie in a series of charitable events and causes, such as a benefit fishing event (he's far right in photo). He seems most drawn to children’s charities and has dedicated much of his time in that area.
In 2008, Edwards was a force to be reckoned with — in everything he drove. He won a career-best nine Cup races that season and another seven in the Nationwide ranks to total 16 victories for the season. His consistency was incredible. Edwards earned 27 top-10 finishes on the Cup side and 22 on the Nationwide. And he earned 19 top fives in each series. Quite an impressive season.
Edwards has maintained his role in the Nationwide ranks even as his Cup career gained footing. Until now, he remained one of the few drivers who runs full time in the Nationwide ranks, even if it means forfeiting off weekends and down time when the series are running in separate areas. His best season of doubling up came in 2008, when he was the runner-up in both series. In 2010, he finished fourth in the Cup standings and second in the Nationwide.
Reason to celebrate
In his brief NASCAR career, Edwards has been a proven challenger with 62 NASCAR victories to his credit. Of those, 19 have come in the Sprint Cup ranks, 37 in the Nationwide Series and six in the Camping World Truck Series.
It’s the stuff of racing lore, how Edwards made it into racing. He carried around his own business cards, worked on his own cars, did anything he could to gain a chance in the racing world. His persistence and desire are legendary. But he didn’t sit around and wait. Before his talent caught the eye of team owner Jack Roush, Edwards was a student at the University of Missouri and worked as a part-time teacher.
Call him champ
Edwards flexed his muscles in 2007, winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. In 35 starts that season, Edwards posted 21 top-10 finishes, 15 of them top-fives. He won four races — twice at Nashville Superspeedway and one apiece at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. He posted an average starting position of 10.9 and an average finish of 11.8 to win the title by 618 points over David Reutimann.
Edwards (pictured with his wife, Kate) has generally been in or near the heat of the battle for a championship berth during his full-time Cup career. He has finished in the top 10 in the standings four times and actually mathematically tied for the 2011 title, finishing second to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker based on wins for the season (Stewart had five, Edwards' one). That gave him his second runnerup Cup finish (he was also second in 2008). He has also finished third (2005), fourth (2010) and ninth (2007) in the season standings.