Edwards expects to challenge Johnson in 2011

After winning the last two races of the season, Carl Edwards
thinks he’ll be sitting in Jimmie Johnson’s spot a year from
now.

Edwards took a quick break from celebrating his victory in
Sunday’s Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to
salute Johnson and his team for winning their fifth straight series
championship.

”I was telling them in Victory Lane, it’s going to take us six
years to beat that,” Edwards said. ”Just unreal what those guys
have been able to do.”

Just don’t ask Edwards if an unprecedented title run puts
Johnson in the conversation about the best drivers in NASCAR
history.

”I feel like I’m better than him,” Edwards said. ”Everybody
feels like that. That’s why we race, guys. … If you’ve got a
driver out there right now that says, ‘Oh, no, Jimmie is a lot
better than me,’ you don’t want that guy on your team.”

Edwards also won at Phoenix a week ago, giving him a strong
sense of optimism heading into the offseason.

”I feel we have a lot of momentum and things are getting
better,” Edwards said. ”We have a new engine that we are working
on that just keeps getting better. That is the best performance
down a straightaway than I have had in a long time today. We just
got a lot of good things going. I can’t tell you guys how much this
means to finish a season like this, this is just spectacular for
us.”

After going out so strong, Edwards might have been the only
person in the garage who wished the season wasn’t ending.

”Heck yeah, I wish the season was just starting,” Edwards
said. ”That would be nice to start the season with these two wins
but we’ll go for three in a row at Daytona.”

Still, it remains to be seen whether Edwards – or anyone else –
can unseat Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team.

”We have been better at times,” Edwards said. ”Other people
have been better at times. I look at what we have. When I look at
the two cars sitting next to one another and I understand that
those cars are made of shocks and springs and the chassis and the
body and the engine, and I look at all of those parameters and
where we are headed with ours, I feel like we are making really
good progress.”

Team owner Jack Roush knows it won’t be easy.

”You have to make fewer mistakes than they do and be better at
spending your money,” Roush said. ”There’s enough money to do
what you need to do here, but the main thing is spending money on
the things that you have got enough time to effect a good result
and a good solution to the problems and challenges you’ve got.
That’s what we have to do.”

CHAFED CHAD: Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, made it clear
that he wasn’t thrilled with recent comments by Mike Ford, the crew
chief for championship rival Denny Hamlin.

”Yes, absolutely,” Knaus said. ”I think our team and our
organization is better than what they have got at Gibbs. Just the
facts. I didn’t appreciate the way that they said that we were
selfish and inconsiderate to the guys on our team when we had to
pull them and I wanted to make sure that this championship is not
about that decision that was made in Texas in the middle of the
race or the decision that was made the Monday after Texas, because
that’s not what it was.”

Ford called Hendrick Motorsports’ decision to swap Johnson’s pit
crew for Jeff Gordon’s at Texas an act of desperation, and said it
proved that Hendrick was more concerned with winning a title for
the organization than it was in supporting its individual race
teams.

”There’s 520-something people that work at Hendrick
Motorsports, and we have a responsibility to them to do what’s
right,” Knaus said. ”If he can’t see that or if they can’t see
that, then they aren’t a team.”

CHILDRESS COMEBACK: A championship run by Kevin Harvick would
have been the crowning moment in the recent resurgence by Richard
Childress Racing, but Childress said his employees should hold
their heads up high after Kevin Harvick’s strong run at the title
came up just a little short.

”We gave it a shot and gave it all we had,” Childress said.
”Would have liked to be a little closer. Who knows what would have
happened if we hadn’t had that penalty. I felt we would have had a
good shot to win the race in clear air. Who knows, you know? We
just raced as hard as we could. Congratulations to Jimmie and Rick
(Hendrick), and that whole organization.”

Childress didn’t criticize NASCAR’s decision to penalize Harvick
for speeding on pit road.

”No, it’s history,” Childress said. ”Now we’ve got to look at
next year.”

SPARK PLUGS: Chuck Efaw, a member of Kasey Kahne’s pit crew, was
hospitalized with a leg injury after being hit by a car on pit
road. … Edwards might have taken the checkered flag, but his
attempt at a post-race joke wasn’t exactly a winning effort. Asked
about the winless streak he ended last week, Edwards turned to
Roush and said, ”No offense, Jack, but it’s like a sharp stick in
the eye.” Roush, who lost an eye after an airplane crash earlier
this year, laughed it off. Edwards immediately took it back and
praised his team owner’s dedication. ”He never talks about
himself, he never complains about anything,” Edwards said. ”He’s
a guy that you want to go to war with.”

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