For much of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, it looked as if Carl Edwards was going to have not only his worst performance of the 2011 Chase, but one of his worst in any Chase.
Struggling with the handling of the car, Edwards was two laps down at one point to eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson. However, after making continual adjustments and catching the right breaks, Edwards was able to recover to score a fifth-place finish and take sole possession of the Chase points lead.
Following the race, Edwards said he felt as if he had just won the race after the day's disappointing start, adding he knew they were in "deep trouble" from the drop of the green flag going into the first corner on the first lap.
Edwards indicated he and crew chief Bob Osborne "prepared the wrong setup" in practice, putting the wrong suspension in the car for Sunday's race. Using myriad adjustments throughout the event, Edwards and Osborne were able to get the car handling and had a bit of luck on their side late in the race.
"We were very, very fortunate, and I'm extremely grateful," Edwards said. "We should have finished 15th or 20th, so it all worked out in our favor."
Knowing his struggles could lead to a big drop in the Chase standings, Edwards joked he was "about to run into a fence" trying to look at the scoreboard and assess his Chase competition throughout the day. After making his way back into contention, he also knew the importance of his final pass on Kevin Harvick for fifth.
"We both knew since we were tied whoever finished (fifth) would be ahead one point," he said of the pass. "That was good that we were able to do that."
While he currently leads the standings, Edwards said there is too much racing left in the Chase to determine if Sunday's performance was a defining day.
"We've run four races, it feels like we've run 400," he said. "There's a lot that can happen in the next six races. You know, I have a feeling there will be more moments that define this championship. All the way up until the last lap at Homestead, I think you have to be on your game."