There was a lovefest between what appeared as an odd-couple pairing of crew chief and driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For Carl Edwards, his long-time crew chief is gone as he struggles to make the Chase.
The quiet and soft-spoken Bob Osborne worked with Edwards at Roush Fenway Racing for nine years. He was the only crew chief for the driver at the cup level, and together they garnered 18 wins.
Edwards is the camera-friendly, extroverted opposite of Osborne and yet the chemistry was solid.
In an unexpected turn of events after the race at Loudon, it was announced that Osborne would transition away from his position as crew chief, but the change was effective immediately.
Osborne would assume a management level position and Chad Norris would assume crew chief duties for the No. 99 Fastenal team at RFR.
Osborne stated, "At this time in my life, however, concerns with my health have necessitated that I change my role within the organization."
Osborne added, "This transition is not an easy one, but I'm thankful to have the full support of Jack, Carl and the entire organization. I also have every confidence in Chad Norris and I look forward to working with him as we continue to pursue a championship in 2012."
Edwards said, "I cannot say enough good things about Bob Osborne. I'm so thankful for what he's done for me as a driver, and he is without a doubt one of the smartest guys in the sport."
After ending the 2011 season, Edwards was tied in the point standings with Tony Stewart, but Stewart won the cup title by virtue of his five wins (to the one win of Edwards).
The undefinable hangover effect seems to be at work once again with Edwards, much like it has been with Denny Hamlin in 2010.
Edwards has not been fast in comparison to his teammates, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, who have both been leaders in the standings and remain first and third respectively.
The 2012 season finds Edwards with zero wins, two top-five and nine top-10 finishes. He is 11th in points, 140 markers out of the lead.
There was considerable drama with Edwards during his contract year of 2011 at RFR. It was thought that he might leave for greener pastures, but he remained loyal to Jack Roush.
Roush re-signed him for a multi-year deal that no doubt included big bucks and big expectations. He is the face of Roush Fenway Racing and Ford has placed great faith in his ability to perform.
This year that face has been less than happy, and some races hardly mention Edwards, except for where he starts and that he's having another tough day. Sponsors can't be thrilled.
Edwards was always supportive of Osborne and gave one reason or another for the lack of performance expected from this team, especially with the other two teams doing so well.
Cracks in the relationship between Osborne and Edwards were apparent after the race at Kentucky, when it was obvious the driver had become frustrated with his crew chief.
Edwards started 25th and finished 20th at Kentucky, then headed to Daytona where he started 12th and finished sixth, and at Loudon he was 21st on the grid and finished 18th.
There are but seven races left for Edwards to knock off a couple of wins to guarantee a wild-card slot for the Chase.
Unless Norris has some miracle plan to get Edwards back in the game with a fast car, there is a good chance that he could miss the Chase.
Norris has been with RFR since 2005. He has led multiple teams to victory in the Nationwide series and worked with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as crew chief in his limited cup appearances.
Sometimes a stunning breakup between a driver and crew chief is just what is needed, but at this late in the season, Norris and Edwards face a steep challenge to suddenly win two of the seven races.
One could theorize that perhaps Roush bet on the wrong horse when he lost the sponsorship for Kenseth, put his money on Edwards, and then when Kenseth left the fold for a yet to be announced gig.
Kenseth leads the point standings, has one win, nine top-five and 13 top-10 finishes with an average finish of 7.7.
Edwards forfeited driving in the Nationwide series during this season to concentrate on going for the cup title, but his plan may have had the opposite effect.
It is no secret that Edwards can become aggressive on the track, as Brad Keselowski could easily verify.
Time is running out and desperate times call for desperate measures. Edwards and his team must take chances to go for wins if they can get the No. 99 fast enough to do so.
We may see a different Edwards in the upcoming races. He may have a fast car and be able to find victory lane or he may continue to fight to make the Chase.
If Norris doesn't turn the program around for Edward's team, the frustration level will mount with this driver and it may not be pretty to watch.
Not making the Chase after the 2011 season would weigh heavy on the driver of the No. 99. We shall soon see if Edwards can recover and if Norris is up to the challenges that he faces.
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