Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman are some of the biggest names in NASCAR. But that’s not all that they have in common. All three failed to qualify to the Chase of the Championship last year, and their road to redemption will be a major storyline entering the 2013 season.
All three drivers have no shortage of fans, and their successes throughout their careers show as much.
That success, however, was hard to come by in 2012, raising the level of expectations for each driver as the new season approaches. Both Newman and Busch managed just one Sprint Cup victory each a year ago, and Edwards went winless a season after nearly winning the 2011 series championship.
Running strong was not a problem for Busch last season, ranking second among all Sprint Cup drivers in laps led. But he managed only 13 top-five finishes and his lone victory paled in comparison to a combined 19 victories in the past four seasons.
And in 22 races in his own car in the Nationwide Series and three Camping World Truck Series events, he was also winless. Busch is scheduled to run approximately 25 Nationwide races for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.
“Unfortunately, we had a tough year. It wasn’t one that either of us wanted,” Busch told media recently. “You look more toward the positive things and what these guys are working on here (at JGR) and what Toyota is working on behind the scenes.”
Carl Edwards is coming off his first winless season since 2009. He rebounded from that season with a fourth-place points finish in 2010. Edwards is hoping for a similar bounce back in 2013. If that happens, it’ll be with a team under the leadership of veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig, who has crew chiefed drivers to a total of 36 Cupvictories. He has been with Roush Fenway Racing since 1997, serving as the crew chief for Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, David Ragan and most recently, Matt Kenseth.
“If you look at the way Matt (Kenseth) ran with Jimmy last year, it was head-and-shoulders better than we ran in the No. 99,” Edwards said.
Newman also heads into the new season with optimism thanks to a new crew chief. He’ll be reuniting with Matt Borland, with whom Newman experienced the greatest success of his career while at Penske Racing from 2000 to 2006. During that time, the two teamed up to win 12 races and also making a name for themselves during qualifying sessions, claiming 37 pole positions. Six of those came here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, tying him with Buddy Baker for the most pole positions in our track history.
“Matt and I have a great past,” Newman said. “But we also failed together at times. We’ve learned from those mistakes and that’s why we’re back together.”