As far as Carl Edwards is concerned, there are very few things that are off limits. He hasn’t talked about his contract or his family life since coming to the Sprint Cup Series in 2004, but just about everything else has been fair game.
Until he went winless last season.
One of the most-personable drivers in NASCAR now wants to keep his struggles of a year ago in the rearview mirror. He doesn’t want to be reminded of just three top-five finishes or a 15th-place finish in the standings.
Like so many other drivers looking for a bounce this year, he doesn’t want to waste any energy dwelling on the past.
“I couldn’t be looking forward to it more,” Edwards said. “I think it will be an exciting year for me. I would like to put last year out of my memory and not think about it too much.
“Not in the last few years have I been this excited to go racing. I think it is probably because my off-season has been a little longer than most.”
Others are just as desperate to make a comeback. Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya combined for just five top 10 finishes at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing; Jeff Burton was winless with two top-fives at Richard Childress Racing; Danica Patrick didn’t have a top-10 in her 10-race schedule; and Martin Truex Jr. didn’t win a race at Michael Waltrip Racing despite qualifying for the Chase for the Championship.
Each is looking for better results this year.
“I have heard every possible reason for my lack of winning last year,” Edwards said. “I have looked at a lot of it and what I have done is just dedicated myself to being the very best driver I can be. For me, this is going to be a year of hard work and dedication for one purpose – to win races and the championship. I am working on everything I can.”
Patrick’s schedule will expand to a fulltime this year at Stewart-Haas Racing. Her selected races a year ago didn’t produce any real success. A 17th-place effort at Phoenix was her only race inside the top 24.
She knows this year only will be more challenging. But she believes she’s got a better understanding of what she faces.
“I feel like I really saw some potential in having a good year this year,” she said. “There will undoubtedly be really tough days. I know the areas that we need to work on. We just have to be optimistic, keep our heads down and stay positive when it gets tough.
“You can’t let the tough days get you down. I’m sure they are going to happen, so I think that is going to help us have more better days if we can stay positive and stay up beat.”
At 45 Burton knows he needs to turn things around if he’s going to keep his job inside Richard Childress’ No. 31 Chevrolet, especially after finishing 19th in the standings.
“When you run the way that we ran, then you should be in the rumors,” Burton said. “It’s part of being in the sport.”
Unlike some of the others, Edwards isn’t facing a crossroads in his career. But after losing the 2011 championship in a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart, few have fallen as far – or as hard – as Edwards did in the span of one year.
The key to getting back on track, he said, is not over think things.
“The psychology of competition is amazing. You can read all you want but the folks in here that have competed at something you know that when it happens it is different,” he said.
“I think it all comes down to confidence. I think you have to get up every morning and have the confidence that if you go out and do your very best that when the circumstances are right you will prevail and win and get what you want. When you start running around and worrying and trying to make up for things and selling yourself short, that is when things go bad.”
One way to relieve the tension is to focus solely on the future.
“That has been my mission, to go do the best I can to surround myself with the best people and Jack (Roush, car owner) has done a great job of that for this coming season,” Edwards said. “Hopefully it yields great results. Winning is easy when you are doing it but losing is really easy, too.”
No matter how hard you try to forget.