Race Weekend Central

Was one point difference in Osborne changing jobs?

Just one point.

That was the difference between Carl Edwards racing as the defending champion this season instead of the runnerup. If Edwards had been able to make one more pass in the final 10 races for whatever place, then he, not Tony Stewart would have left Homestead last November as the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. But it didn’t happen that way as they ended in a tie for the points, with Stewart taking the tiebreaker for having more wins, five to Edwards’ one.

And this week, we found out what that one point meant. So, instead of Edwards and now former crew chief Bob Osborne, racing this season as defending champions, and presumably having some kind of extended grace period in case they hit a tough stretch, they were racing under the microscope. And it didn’t take a scientist to see that the duo that has been together since 2004 and won 18 races was struggling, 11th in points after the first 19 races, and maybe bigger, without a victory.

This isn’t to blame Edwards for not making that one more pass last year. He’s proven himself a quality driver over the years, and he probably wondered many times himself where he could have made up one more point.

And the same is true for Osborne, who probably wondered many times if he would have made a different call on tires, or pit strategy, or chassis adjustment, that may have allowed Edwards to finish one place better somewhere.

It’s human nature to wonder about such things.

Osborne, a Chester, Pa., native, stepped down as Edwards’ crew chief this week for what was cited as health reasons. And certainly, everyone who knows Osborne hopes that there is no serious health issue here. He’s always been a first-class guy and not one who appears to have some self-serving agenda. The so-called “health issues” can sometimes be a nice way for a person in a high position (in sports, it’s usually a general manager, manager, or head coach) to make a clean and neat exit from a situation that just wasn’t working. And if that’s the case here, that’s OK, too, because if Osborne deserves anything in this scenario, it’s to be treated with class and dignity, which sometimes does not happen when a person of authority is asked to make an exit, especially in the sports world.

And it was good to hear that Osborne will be staying at Roush-Fenway Racing in some capacity. He’s too good of guy who knows too much about how to make cars go fast to simply be cast aside.

But the fact is Edwards has not won in 52 races. It’s not like the Dale Jr. type of streak of 143 that ended when he won in Michigan in June, but it’s enough to get the attention of an elite team. Maybe new crew chief Chad Norris will make a difference for Edwards and at least help him qualify for the Chase for the Championship, NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, which he is currently not in with seven races left in the regular season.

But the so-called maybes seemed to have haunted the No. 99 team all season.

And that’s one more point that Edwards and Osborne couldn’t do anything about either.

With the Sprint Cup Series on their final off-weekend of the year, there are no race picks to be had this week. However, we can take a look at the wildcard hunt and how it’s shaping up with just ___ races left before the Chase field is set. Which of those drivers have the best shot at racing their way into the coveted playoff field? Read on to find out:

Jeff Gordon: Yes he is 17th in points, but a win could put him right back in the thick of the wild-card hunt. He’s got 27 career victories at the remaining seven tracks, including four at Indianapolis, which is the next race July 29.

Carl Edwards: There is some hope. He’s got nine wins at the remaining seven tracks.

Kasey Kahne: He’s coming of the win at New Hampshire and may stay on a roll. He has five wins at the next seven tracks.

Kyle Busch: He has struggled lately due to engine and pit stop woes, but is still in the Chase at the moment and has five wins at the next seven stops.

Ryan Newman: He’s just out of the Chase at the moment, but has four wins at the next seven tracks.

Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared at Daytona
Tony Stewart: 12th. Not really a factor to win this at all, but managed a respectable finish.

Ryan Newman: 10th. Ran better than Stewart most of the day, but also not a factor to win it at any point.

Jimmie Johnson: 7th. May have challenged for win if bad luck with late caution didn’t cost him several spots.

Jeff Burton: 21st. New Hampshire is probably his best track. It seems good finishes for him these days are more of coincidence than a regularity.

Clint Bowyer: 3rd. He contended for the win for a while, but wasn’t as good as eventual winner Kahne or second-place Denny Hamlin.

Here’s a look at my results after 19 races and 95 picks.

10 wins
34 top fives
45 top 10s

Grade for the week: B- No winner this time. Maybe Johnson would have had a shot if not for the late caution that came just after he had pitted under green. Newman and Stewart were both disappointing given their history of success at New Hampshire, but were not disasters either.

One Last Thing: Tony Stewart has 17 wins on tracks in the next seven races, the most of any driver in the top 10 in points.

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