Short tracks a weakness for Edwards

Carl Edwards has somewhat of a comfortable lead in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup with only four races to go. That is the good news.

The bad news is this weekend is Martinsville, which has always been a difficult track for the Roush Fenway Racing cars. They have to get through this weekend’s race with minimum damage if they are going to win the championship.

They will be the first ones to tell you they have struggled at Martinsville. For whatever reason, their cars have not handled well there. It’s easily one of their worst tracks. Across the board, the Roush Fenway cars have struggled with their short-track program.

Now in talking to Jack Roush and Edwards, plus listening to some of the comments by others in their organization, they feel they have done everything possible to be successful this weekend. They can’t afford to finish anywhere from 15th to 20th only to have one of their closer Chase challengers win the race. If that happens, then Edwards’ somewhat comfortable lead is no longer comfortable.

Last weekend, all the talk was about surviving Talladega. To me, Martinsville could be Roush Fenway Racing’s Talladega.

Edwards’ teammate Matt Kenseth is also right there in the hunt for the championship. Now, he did have a sixth-place finish in the spring Martinsville race, but, in actuality, that No. 17 car did not run all that well. Kenseth ran in the back for part of that race, but through a series of good calls getting him track position, he was able to bring it home in the top 10.

The other thing these two guys are facing is Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. They have dominated at Martinsville for the past handful of years, and they are more dangerous this weekend than ever. You have to throw Dale Earnhardt Jr. into that mix because he almost won the spring race. Johnson, Gordon, Hamlin and Earnhardt could care less about points right now because they are out of the Chase hunt.

So they can go all out at Martinsville because they have nothing to lose. Their only focus is winning the race. The points deal to them is dead. If someone wants to get up there and rub fenders with any or all of those four guys, it could get ugly. Edwards, on the other hand, can’t afford the risk of mixing it up with anyone at Martinsville.

In my opinion, Edwards is in a vise right now. He has to keep the front fenders on that car all day long Sunday and score points. Edwards has won most of his races at 1.5-mile race tracks. So short tracks are his and Roush-Fenway Racing’s Achilles’ heel, and they have to really overcome that this weekend.

I am not saying Edwards isn’t one of the most talented drivers on the circuit, because he is. When it comes to the short-track races, like this weekend in Martinsville, he needs a race car that can help him out. It’s just that simple. He needs the latest, greatest race car that can come out of Roush-Fenway Racing.

This car has to have short track written all over it. They have to have a car they can be competitive with. It has to go down in that corner and turn like it needs to because Martinsville is like no other track on the circuit. It doesn’t matter how he did anywhere else, Martinsville Speedway is the only track that matters.

Remember, there are only four races before it’s all over, so it’s one race at a time.