DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Carl Edwards had quite the impressive debut for Joe Gibbs Racing on Saturday night at the Sprint Unlimited, finishing third and showing newfound flashes of aggression that seemed refreshingly unfamiliar from the 35-year-old veteran.
Edwards never put himself in a precarious position but was more than willing to go three-wide or throw a daring block when the situation demanded it. He also had the look of a team player on the final lap, seemingly deciding to race Martin Truex Jr. harder for second in the efforts to prevent him from overtaking teammate and race winner Matt Kenseth at the line.
“Man that was crazy,” Edwards said after the race. “I need to see a replay with (Truex). It felt like he just all but wrecked me that one time, but fortunately we got it straightened out and it was a good start for ARRIS and for Stanley and our relationship with Toyota. I’m glad Matt won that race, but, man, I could taste it there.
“That was a lot of fun – a cool event.“
Despite not winning in his first night with a new team, Edwards expressed satisfaction with his efforts and the chemistry he established with his teammates and crew chief Darian Grubb on Saturday night.
Next up for the newly formed No. 19 team is qualifying on Sunday afternoon. It’s important that Edwards somehow locks down a front row starting spot because it would automatically lock him into the race prior to the Thursday qualifying races that set the field for The Great American Race.
Since this is a new team, Edwards has no entrant points to fall back on. With that said, Edwards said he was confident with the speed of his Toyota and is looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I think all of our JGR Toyotas are good for next week,” Edwards said. “We’ll qualify tomorrow and hopefully that goes well. We’ve got a very good car. If we don’t crash that thing or something tomorrow, I think we’re going to have a good race.”
Meanwhile, Joe Gibbs said not to read too much into Edwards’ aggressive driving on Saturday night, believing it to be a byproduct of the circumstances of non-points racing in the Sprint Unlimited.
“Like everyone else out there, he was going for it,” Gibbs said. “He got trapped in a bad position, just like Matt did for part of the race. If you’re two abreast, you’re back mid-pack, you’re going to have to be fortunate to get through there on some wrecks, which he just missed.”
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