Rough last ride: Carl Edwards, Jimmy Fennig stumble in final start
Despite being a lame-duck driver for most of the season's second half, Carl Edwards somehow managed to remain alive in his pursuit of his first Sprint Cup championship in his final run with Roush Fenway Racing.
Even with the inevitable distractions that come with knowing one's days with a team are numbered, Edwards soldiered on by compiling enough good finishes to stay in the title hunt all while vowing to remain solely focused on his present job until the very end.
When the series rolled into Phoenix International Raceway for the season's penultimate event and the final race of the Chase Eliminator Round, Edwards was one of eight drivers still in the running for the title, but finished 14th -- not enough to make the cut for the Championship 4.
Once arriving in South Florida for Sunday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the wheels came off -- both literally and figuratively. As was often the case for the entire Roush Fenway Racing organization at intermediate tracks in 2014, Edwards was a non-factor at a 1.5-mile venue.
"I had a flat right-rear," said Edwards, who entered and finished the final race ninth in the points standings. "I was having some fun racing with some of those guys. I went under Austin Dillon and I heard a noise and I thought, 'Oh, somebody's engine is blowing up,' and it was my tire flapping and I just drove in there and backed into the fence.
"If I would have been just a little bit quicker realizing what was going wrong, I think we would have still had a good finish, but I had a good time. We finished the race and got to race a little bit there at the end with Michael Annett and that was fun."
While falling short of his ultimate goal of a championship at Roush Fenway -- he finished runner-up in points in 2008 and 2011 -- Edwards had plenty of fun in his 10-plus seasons with the Concord, N.C-based organization. His final numbers: 23 wins, 108 top fives, 187 top 10s and 13 poles in 373 starts for the fabled organization.
Edwards spent his final two years at Roush Fenway working with veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig, who planned to retire following Sunday's final race of 2014. For Edwards, however, it's on to Joe Gibbs Racing where he'll join new teammates Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in a fourth JGR Toyota set to debut in 2015.
"Overall it's just been an honor to work with everybody here," he said. "If it weren't for Jack Roush and Ford and everybody that has worked so hard, I definitely would never have had all the success we've had, so the 99 will always be a part of my life."
VIDEO: Carl Edwards discusses the end of his championship bid