Of the seven drivers who entered the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway fighting for the last spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, Carl Edwards' chances rated sixth.
His odds of winning the race among the group were higher than that, so good has he been on RIR's three-quarter-mile oval of late. He was second in the fall race here last year and led late in the April race before being penalized for jumping the start.
So he needed an unlikely series of events to occur for him to make the Chase: a win, a 34th or worse finish (with no laps led) by RIR ace Kyle Busch and a 22nd or worse (with no laps led) by Jeff Gordon. In short, Edwards, who raced on the last lap of the 2011 season for the Cup title, faced Saturday with the virtual certainty he would not even compete for the '12 title.
"A year ago we were cruising right now, dominating the points, not a care in the world, pretty sure we were gonna be contenders for the championship," Edwards said. "Everything was great and then you fast forward one year and it's a whole different story."
But not a whole different Edwards. If he indeed comes to Chicago in a week with no shot of finishing better than 13th in the Cup standings this season, the ultra-competitive Edwards still won't concede a spot.
"I want to make something really clear, I've thought about this," he said. "I try to stay really positive. At the end of the day, I can guarantee you one thing — we're gonna come to every race this year (and) whether we're in the Chase or not, we're gonna do the very best we can to try to win.
"We're gonna prepare for next year if we're not in that Chase. We're gonna use all of that energy we can to prepare for next year and go try to win the championship next year."
Looking forward to next season has to be appealing. Like so many Chase runners-up of recent vintage, Edwards has laid an egg this season, failing to win any of the first 25 races.
"I think it's just chance, but it's true," Edwards said of the runnerup hangover. "In 2008 it was me. We finished second and we were terrible in 2009.
"So lately it's been the second-place guy who has struggled, but I don't know if there's anything to that, but it's rang true."
One thing there's no doubt about, is that the restart penalty in April hurt him. Had he gotten that victory his chances of making the Chase would've been much better Saturday.
"I think about that race a little bit, but you just never know," said Edwards, who led 206 of the first 318 laps in the 400-lap race. "If it hadn't gone that way for us, Kyle wouldn't have his win.
"There are so many things that happen in this sport. I never feel like the sport owes me anything."
HAMPTON STAR PLEDGES
Francena McCorory, part of the United States' gold medal winning 4x400-meter relay team in the London Olympics, was one of several state athletes selected to recite the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the Cup race. Te'era Brown, an Olympic 400-meter hurdles finalist who, like McCorory, ran high school track in Hampton, also was part of the group.
McCorory said that following the Olympics, she competed in Stockholm and Zurich. She said that more people recognized her there than at RIR.
"They emphasize track a little more in Europe," she said. "But it's fun to get back home and do things around here."
McCorory, a two-time NCAA indoor champ at 400 meters, said one of those things is speaking to elementary school children about healthy eating.
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON MAKING THE CHASE
"Being in the Chase signifies that you are one of the upper tier teams. It's a big disappointment when you aren't in that group.
"The Chase isn't won in Chicago (the first of 10 races) but it can be lost there if you screw up."
Jeff Gordon came into Saturday's race likely needing a win to get into the Chase, although he did have an outside chance of getting into the top 10 for an automatic berth. His teammate, Jimmie Johnson, already in the Chase, said he would not interfere to give Gordon a helping hand.
"It's just bad karma, bad ethics, bad everything that it would never cross my mind," he said. "Of course I will give him room and if he's better than me I don't want him to beat up his tires passing me. … But outside of that I'm not playing a hand in fate."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun