When the news came out Tuesday that Bob Osborne had stepped down as crew chief for Carl Edwards, it didn't come as a surprise. And while Roush Fenway Racing officials said Osborne's resignation was due to health concerns, an argument could be made that a change in direction was necessary long before this week.
One year ago at this time, Edwards was atop the point standings – a position he had held 13 of 19 weeks – and had a victory along three runner-up finishes under his belt. Although he wouldn't win the rest of 2011, Edwards was consistent enough to tie Tony Stewart for the championship, only to lose on a tiebreaker.
But this season, that consistency has vanished into a sea of mediocre results.
Through 19 races in 2012, Edwards is winless and has finished in the top five on just two occasions. Even more problematic, he finds himself on the verge of missing the Chase for the first time since 2006. Clearly, that is not where anyone at Roush Fenway Racing expected Edwards to be at this point in the season.
But ever the optimist, Edwards continually believed that his season could be saved. Whenever someone would mention the word ‘hangover' or ask whether his team could move past the disappointing way 2011 ended, Edwards quickly dismissed the notion.
To his credit, even as his season spiraled out of control and it became apparent to all that something was amiss, Edwards was adamant his team was just a couple of top-five finishes away from being contenders again.
But it's not easy to forget the past, no matter how hard you may try. Ultimately, frustration transforms into resentment, which leads to second-guessing; all those things combined can turn into a fractured relationship.
These are essentially the same issues which plagued Denny Hamlin and Mike Ford a season ago when they fell from championship runner-ups to Chase also-rans.
The chemistry which once was the backbone of the Edwards/Osborne partnership disintegrated as neither party was able to neither forget nor move past the heartbreaking way their season ended eight months ago.
There is no better example of this than what happened at Kentucky.
On that night, Edwards was running solidly in the top five with a handful of laps left, when under a yellow flag he was supposed to come down pit road to top off his fuel tank. However, by the time Osborne relayed that message to his driver, it was too late as Edwards had already gone by the pit entrance. As a result, Edwards was forced to make a green-flag stop and finished the night in 20th-place.
"It is time for us to get it in gear," Edwards said afterward. "I am real frustrated, Bob is real frustrated and I know we can do this.
"We could divide right now or we could come together. I have the best crew chief in the business and he proved it at the end of the year last year. We got beat on a crazy call by Darian (Grubb) and those guys last year and we need to get going and get this Ford in Victory Lane."
Fast forward two weeks, and Osborne has been reassigned while Edwards is tasked with breaking in a new crew chief in the fading hope he can jump-start his sagging season. But with just seven races left in the regular season and needing a win – maybe two – to get into the Chase, the odds aren't in Edwards' favor.
That wouldn't have been the case if this move had happened a month ago or at the first or second sign of trouble in the No. 99 camp.
Instead, this may now be a case of too little, too late.