Carl Edwards is positioning himself as the NASCAR pitchman for the 2010s, appearing in everything from comic books to cartoons to TV dramas to daytime talk shows to ... you get the idea. Now, if only the guy could go and win himself a Cup, all would be right in the 99's world.
Thing is, that goal has proved elusive. He came close in 2008, winning three of the last four races, but that set off a 70-race winless streak that took him through all of 2009 and most of 2010. He's run most of this season at or near the top of the points standings.
However, in recent weeks he's slipped somewhat; more to the point, he hasn't been able to step up in the way that other drivers like Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon have. You can find him near the front of every race, but you've only seen him AT the front at the end of one race this season. He'll need to do more to capture that first Cup.
Edwards' best Chase track: It's the season-ending Homestead, where he's got an average finish of 5.7, but that figure is somewhat skewed by the "screw it, the season's already over" mentality that's pervaded most of the field over the last few years. After that, his best track is Dover, where he's got an average finish of 7.6 at a track that has bedeviled other drivers.
Edwards' worst Chase track: Talladega, and not just because he toured the fence there courtesy of fellow Chaser Brad Keselowski back in 2009. Edwards has an average finish there of 20.9. His next-worst track is Chicago. Uh-oh.
Key question: He can run well, but can he run well enough? Edwards is a reliable frontrunning driver; his 17 top-10s tie Jimmie Johnson for the best in the series, and his 12 top-5s are second only to Kyle Busch's 13. Thing is, getting to the front pack is one thing; getting to the front OF the pack can be much trickier.
JB's prediction: 3rd. Edwards will run well enough all Chase to stay within sight of the leaders, but in the end his good-but-not-quite-good-enough season could end one turn short of a Cup.