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5 Questions (and answers) heading into the 2012 NASCAR season, Part 2

In case you missed it from Tuesday, we’re preparing you for another season of racing. Since I know zilch about NASCAR, a special guest brings us five intriguing questions (with answers!) to help guide expectations for 2012. Today: Question 2.

[Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, and hopefully throughout the NASCAR season, my cousin, Wayne, will be bringing racing insight to ignorant dopes such as myself. Enjoy.]

If you missed Question 1 regarding how Tony Stewart’s 2011 success could impact his 2012 campaign, check it out.

2. Will Carl Edwards break through or take a step back?

The TV commercials, the shirtless magazine covers, the million dollar smile, the doctor wife [no I’m not talking about Ryan – heyo!], the insurmountable good guy image [even intentionally wrecking Brad Keselowski in 2010 couldn’t scuff the chrome off his halo], the most recognizable victory celebration, growing into the flagship driver at Roush Fenway Racing; Carl Edwards seemed destined to be NASCAR’s poster boy and champion in 2011.  If anyone were going to unseat Jimmie Johnson from his 5-year reign atop the sport, it would be “Cousin Carl” from Columbia, Missouri.

His season was a masterful display of consistency posting 19 top 5s, 26 top 10s, and no DNFs.  But his ultimate undoing would be his lack of wins, managing only one.  Watching the closing laps of the 2011 Daytona 500, I would have bet my house on Carl Edwards winning that race.  He didn’t and it ended up costing him the championship; as did any other late race missed opportunity.

If I’m thinking of these things as a fan, I can only imagine how much Carl thought of those moments throughout 2011 that would have given him the title.  Or maybe he has trained himself not to think of those things.  Going back to my earlier point about mentality, the ability to put the past in the past and still go out and compete is what separates successful athletes from the common man. [One of my favorite quotes came from a plaque in Larry Bowa’s office while Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies: “Last Year? History. Last Night? In the Books. Tonight? 110 percent!”]  But they’re still human.

So will this incredibly tough loss spur Edwards to finally break through, or will his proximity to the Promised Land play in the back of his mind for years to come?  For his sake, and for the sake of NASCAR’s mainstream popularity, I hope it’s the former.  It surely will be something to watch out for in 2012.

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