For someone used to traveling at speeds about 160 mph, Carl Edwards never thought he would get so far so fast.
Edwards, a Columbia native, will make his Nextel Cup debut in the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on Sunday.
Edwards will replace Jeff Burton, who announced his plans to leave Roush for Childress Racing early last week. Edwards will take over the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford.
“It’s a great opportunity and I want to make the most of it,” Edwards said.
Edwards is in his second year on NASCAR’s Craftsman’s Truck Series. In 2003, he earned rookie of the year honors.
Edwards spent his 25th birthday Sunday acclimating himself to the Nextel Cup Racing atmosphere at Watkins Glen.
“I’m trying to learn what I can learn and be prepared but I don’t know if there is a way to prepare for something like that,” Edwards said.
Edwards, who said he got the best news of his racing life when Roush racing announced Thursday he would replace Burton, had his worst race of the season Saturday in the Toyota Tundra 200, a race he won in 2003. He finished 20th.
“I’m extra frustrated because last year was my first race at that track, we started last and dominated,” Edwards said.
Saturday’s finish dropped Edwards one position to fourth in the Truck series standings.
Edwards plans to finish the season on racing’s top circuit, the Nextel Cup Series, while completing his second season in Truck series.
This week, Edwards will focus on the Cup race at the GFS Marketplace. The next week, Edwards said he will probably race in all three events at Bristol, Tenn.
He will race in the Truck series Aug. 25. Edwards said he is hoping to run the Busch series Aug. 27, and he will drive Burton’s No. 99 car in the 500-lap Nextel Cup race Aug. 28.
“I’m glad I sat at home and fooled around with video games and ran hundreds of thousand of laps at Bristol when I was a kid,” Edwards said. “Those 500 laps at Bristol in the Nextel Cup Series have got to be among the toughest things a driver could ever do.”Edwards said his experience on the Cup Series, running all those laps and competing against the best drivers in the world, will make him better in the truck.
Rapidly climbing the ladder of success is fast becoming a trademark for Edwards. He began racing at 13, driving four-cylinder minisprints.
He quickly moved his way up through the racing circuit to land a spot on the Craftsman Truck Series. In his rookie season, he earned three series victories for Jack Roush Racing and finished eighth in the series standings.
This year, he has won two series races and was third in the standings before Saturday’s race.
Yet, Edwards finds time to reminisce.
“On my 21st birthday, we were putting lights on a trailer we had just bought,” Edwards said. “I thought I was pretty big time right there; I had myself my own trailer and we were going dirt racing.”
For Edwards, the big time keeps getting bigger.
Carl Edwards Sr., who began a four-decade racing career at 25, noticed his son’s interest in racing at an early age.
“If it had wheels, he was interested in it,” Carl Edwards Sr. said. “Bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards, Soap Box Derby cars, motorcycles, four wheelers; if it had wheels, he wanted to ride on it or in it.”
Fans of Mid-Missouri racing recognized Edwards’ ability. Kirk Hatfield of Mobley, who raced for one season on Missouri’s dirt tracks, saw something special in Edwards.
“He had a way of moving around the track that was real smooth,” Hatfield said. “It looked like it was real easy for him.”
Hatfield and other fans attending the Saturday night racing at 24 Raceway in Mobley were happy and proud to hear that Edwards was entering Nextel Cup Racing.
“I’m happy someone gave him a chance,” said Richard Drew, a longtime racing fan from Huntsville. “I think it will take him some time to get used to it but he’ll be all right.”
Edwards hopes his success will inspire young racers to try their hardest to achieve their goals.
“If you work real hard, surround yourself with good people, it’s possible to live your dream,” he said.