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The NASCAR Hall of Fame case for ‘Cousin Carl’

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 24, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Carl Edwards has the statistics in his favor when it comes to consideration for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

Edwards, who unexpectedly retired from auto racing in 2016, scored 28 wins and 22 pole positions in less than 13 seasons at the Cup Series level. A two-time Cup Series runner-up, the Missouri driver showed a flair with each of his victories, capped off with a backflip off his car.

After a last-lap crash at Talladega in 2009, Edwards’ car became airborne and crashed into the catchfence. Once it came to rest in the infield, Edwards exited and mimicked the movie “Talladega Nights” by running across the finish line.

Nicknamed “Cousin Carl” as a cousin of longtime driver Ken Schrader, Edwards lost the closest championship battle in NASCAR history to Tony Stewart in 2011. Both drivers ended the season with 2,403 points, but Stewart won the tiebreaker with five wins to one for Edwards.

Edwards was also series runner-up in 2008, a year he led the Cup Series with nine wins and finished 69 points behind champion Jimmie Johnson. Over his career, Edwards finished in the top five of Cup Series points in six of his 12 full-time seasons and posted 220 top 10 finishes in 445 races.

Driving the No. 99 Ford for car owner Jack Roush the first decade of his career and the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing his final two seasons, Edwards won four races at Bristol Motor Speedway. He won back-to-back August Night Races in 2007-08 and the Food City 500 in 2014 and 2016.

The Food City 500 was one of three wins for Edwards during his final season, which ended with him qualifying for the championship race at Homestead-Miami. He appeared to have a great shot at his first series title until getting caught up in a late-race accident with Joey Logano.

In addition, Edwards scored 38 wins and 27 poles in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His win total ranks fifth all-time for the series. He also had a five-year run from 2006-10 when he won the 2007 championship and finished runner-up the other four seasons.

One of 31 drivers to win in all three NASCAR national series, Edwards also captured six wins in the Truck Series. He proved to be a diverse talent, winning on the short tracks, road course and speedways. His worst tracks were the restrictor-plate speedways, where his only victory came in the 2004 Truck Series opener at Daytona.

Of the modern-era drivers eligible for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame, he has two more Cup Series wins than Dale Earnhardt Jr., five more than Ricky Rudd and seven more than Jeff Burton — the driver Edwards replaced in the No. 99 car. He has 10 more wins than Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant.

Edwards scored two major wins during the 2015 season, winning both the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the Southern 500 at Darlington. Perhaps the best display of his driving talent is how the Roush Fenway organization struggled after he and Matt Kenseth left the team.

Edwards won two races in each of his final two seasons with the organization, which has just two wins since. With that, Edwards appears to be a good bet to be in the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

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