MARTINSVILLE, VA (April 10, 2004) -- Looking out over the wing of an airplane flying at about 5,000 feet, Carl Edwards spots the dirt track he will be racing on in just a few minutes. "Wow ... that looks pretty neat," an ...
MARTINSVILLE, VA (April 10, 2004) -- Looking out over the wing of an airplane flying at about 5,000 feet, Carl Edwards spots the dirt track he will be racing on in just a few minutes.
"Wow ... that looks pretty neat," an excited, grinning Edwards says.
Five minutes later he's jogging across the tarmac, running toward another night of fun ... at a race track.
Headed into next Saturday's Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway, Edwards is probably the story of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series over the past two seasons.
He was the series' rookie of the year in 2003 with three wins, and 15 top-10 finishes. He won the 2004 season-opener at Daytona and after two races is just four points behind leader Travis Kvapil in the NCTS standings. He is Roush Racing's rising star; in fact Jack Roush said after the Daytona win in February, he was the guy who would eventually replace Mark Martin in one of the team's lead NEXTEL Cup cars.
Edwards is unfazed, unspoiled by it all. He can still say things like "wow ... that looks pretty neat."
During a recent autograph session in Beckley, WV, he struck up a conversation with a single parent and her young child. He discovered they love racing, but have never been able to afford to attend a race in person. He made sure they had tickets to the Kroger 250. It's not a public relations ploy; it's from his heart. On and off the track, he's a breath of fresh air.
Fans first set up and took notice when Edwards did a back flip off of pit wall after his first career truck win last year. They quickly began to flip over his driving. He's sort of a Ken Schrader clone in the sense he's never met a race car or race track he didn't love. He'll race anywhere, anytime in any vehicle and the purse isn't really a big deal.
"I just love to race. I love being in a race car," said Edwards, a former University of Missouri student who was a substitute teacher until his racing career took off.
After visiting two of the circuit's fastest tracks in the season's first two races, Edwards is anxious to get to Martinsville, a track so similar to the ones he cut his racing teeth on in Missouri.
"All the races are fun for me for different reasons, but Martinsville is a lot of fun, because one, there are two grooves and that's fun. And it's a short track where you can overdrive that thing. You can slide off the corners a little bit or drive it a little two deep," said Edwards. "You can get right up against the guy. That's what's racing is all about. ... it's what I did every Saturday night growing up."
Edwards' Martinsville stats certainly back up his love affair with the historic short track. He finished fourth in the Kroger 250 last spring, his first start at Martinsville, and then chased teammate Jon Wood to the checkered flag in the Kroger 200 last fall to finish second.
"I got lucky in the first race at Martinsville last year. I probably shouldn't have finished second," said Edwards. "But the second one, I sat on the pole ... my first and only pole yet ... and then finished right on my teammate's bumper, pushing him around the race track.
"To me Martinsville is going to be one of the strongest race tracks we go to this year."
For Edwards the fall one-two Roush finish at Martinsville was especially special.
"Jon and I are close, we talk a lot. We like the same type of race cars and the same setups, so if I'm struggling, I can go right over there and say 'what are you doing with springs and shocks' and I do the same thing for him," said Edwards.
"That's one of the things that's so cool about Jon and me. We try really hard not to compete against each other, but ... He won two races last year and I finished second to him both times. That's pretty cool, too.
Great seats are still available for the Advance Auto Parts 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race for $40 to $72 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or order online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
The Craftsman Truck Series racing action begins at 1 p.m. on April 17 when the green flag waves on the Kroger 250. Tickets for the Kroger 250 are $35 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. All seats are unreserved.