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.”