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NASCAR's Carl Edwards says Chase just starting

October 5, 2011 |  2:07 pm

The top nine drivers in NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup title playoff are so close with seven races left that “it’s still as if we’re just starting the Chase,” driver Carl Edwards said Wednesday.

Edwards is tied with Kevin Harvick in the championship standings after three races in the 10-race Chase and only 19 points separate them from ninth-place Jeff Gordon.

Edwards “It’s going to slowly whittle itself to seven, six, five” drivers and “by the end of the Chase, you’re going to have four guys, three guys going into Homestead [Fla.] with a chance,” said Edwards, referring to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.

Edwards, a driver on the Roush Fenway Racing team, spoke to reporters on a teleconference during the second day of testing at the newly repaved and reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway. The one-mile track hosts the next-to-last Chase race Nov. 13.

The uncertainty of how the cars will perform on the new surface means “there could be some accidents and things happen that we don’t usually see at Phoenix,” said Edwards, known for his signature back flips after winning a race.

“It’s going to be pretty amazing to be the penultimate race and have all those opportunities for something crazy to happen,” Edwards said. “It could shake everything up.”

Now in his seventh full year in the Cup series, Edwards, 32, is still seeking his first championship in NASCAR’s premier division. The Missourian was close in 2008, a year in which he won nine races, including three in the Chase. But he finished second behind Jimmie Johnson, who has won a record five consecutive titles.

“I’m a little more at ease with the whole situation” compared with 2008, said Edwards, who has only one win so far this season but a series-high 14 top-five finishes. “I feel that you learn the most through your failures, not through your successes. I have more true confidence.”

The next Chase race is Sunday at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Carl Edwards does his signature back flip after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race last Saturday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Credit: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press