By even his own account, Carl Edwards had a miserable season in 2012.
Winning races and qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff are the two measuring sticks used to determine a driver's success over the course of any given season in modern-day NASCAR. Edwards accomplished neither of those two things last year. But both of those things will change in 2013.
After the conclusion of last season, Roush Fenway Racing shuffled some personnel, which resulted in Edwards gaining the services of crew chief Jimmy Fennig to lead the No. 99 team. Fennig has had nothing but success while heading up the efforts of drivers Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth, and there is little reason to believe he won't provide the same good fortune for Edwards.
The best years of Edwards' career came while under the management of veteran crew chief Bob Osborne. But Osborne was forced to step down midway through last year with health concerns. The pairing of Edwards with younger crew chief Chad Norris proved to be less than successful.
Now, back under the command of a more experienced leader, Edwards should return to his previous performance levels. Edwards said during the testing session held last week in Daytona:
Respectfully I don’t want to talk about [last year’s crew chief situation] again. This year I think we have a couple of really good things going for us. I think Jimmy Fennig being the experienced guy that he is…I think that will help me…Last year we had a lot of adversity and did the best we could with it. We didn’t get the performance we wanted but when I take a step back and truly look at it I think we have a pretty good situation now. You never know. We could go out and win 10 races or we can have trouble. I feel like we have the deck stacked in our favor.
Edwards' best season came in 2008 when he amassed nine wins and placed second behind Jimmie Johnson in the final standings. However, since that year, he has won only three races. He just missed out on the Sprint Cup title in 2011 when he lost out on a tie-breaker to Tony Stewart.
Re-energized with a new crew chief after a poor outing in 2012, look for this Columbia, Missouri driver to regain his mojo this season. He will win races and he will contend for the championship again.
Carl Edwards will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff in 2013. But, he is not my choice to win the big trophy.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow along with his Chase for the Sprint Cup series by clicking on the driver of your choice Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.
Throughout the month of January, I will be running a series on the 12 drivers I am predicting to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the 2013 NASCAR season. The first eleven articles will be placed in no particular order but the final piece written in the series will be on the driver I am selecting as the favorite to win this year's championship. Half of these pieces will be placed on my own RacingWithRich.com site and half will be placed on BleacherReport.com. Please consider following along on both websites and adding your own thoughts in the "comments" sections below each piece.