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Edwards ready for title run

Settling for second in the Sprint Cup Series isn't on Carl Edwards' agenda this year.

He got his fill of that position in the standings in 2008, when he lost a two-man battle for the series championship to Jimmie Johnson, who won his record-tying third straight title by 69 points over Edwards.

Though Edwards respects Johnson's accomplishments, he vowed to do everything in his power to stop the streak at three.

“What he did and what he's done the last three years is really special,” said Edwards, who posted a series-high nine victories last year. “If it comes down to me and him again, I want to beat him really badly. I want to win that championship. I want to know what it feels like.

“Winning nine races and having a great year and all that is fine, but I'd take a championship with no wins rather than another nine-win, season because I really want to accomplish that goal.”

Of course, Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of the #48 Hendrick Motorsports team have other ideas.

Ask what he thought about Edwards' being the media's pick for the championship, Johnson reacted with amusement.

“Well, what about me?” he asked. “No, the funny thing is from a racer's standpoint is that we still have to go out and prove it. … I just thought, well, darn, if you've won three championships in a row, you'd think that you'd be a favourite. We all have to go to the track and prove it out. So it was more of a funny moment where I'm like, 'Really?' What's a guy have to do to be considered the favourite?”

With twelve positions available in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Johnson and Edwards certainly aren't the only drivers with their eyes on the title. Kyle Busch won eight of the first 22 races last season in his Joe Gibbs Toyota, and despite a collapse in the Chase, he'll be in the mix again in 2009.

Johnson's team-mates at Hendrick Motorsports - four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and veteran-turned-newcomer Mark Martin - all are likely contenders. Similarly, Edwards' teammates at Roush Fenway - Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Jamie McMurray - all are capable of qualifying for the Chase.

Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing each placed three cars in the Chase last year. Childress has added a driver, Casey Mears, to his stable, while Gibbs lost his marquee star, Tony Stewart, who opted to compete as an owner/driver for Stewart-Haas Racing, with 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman as his team-mate.

How Stewart performs with his new team, and how 18-year-old rookie Joey Logano performs as Stewart's replacement in the #20 JGR Toyota will be two of Sprint Cup's compelling story lines in 2009.

If the dominance of the “Big Four” teams seem to leave little room in the Chase for interlopers, don't tell Juan Pablo Montoya, a standard-bearer for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, formed during the off-season through a merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

“I think there are 20 or 22 guys who could make the Chase this year,” said Montoya, who numbers himself among them.

Johnson, Edwards and Busch won 24 of the 36 points races in 2008. Greater balance, coupled with the ban on preseason testing at NASCAR tracks, should prevent that sort of monopolistic performance this season.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News


Related Pictures

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Carl Edwards at Daytona [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Brian Scott. (Picture Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team battled back from a bad re-start after the first caution of the race to finish 17th in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo Credit: Campbell Marketing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
A general view as cars pit during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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