Can Carl Edwards rebound from disappointing 2012 season?

Streeter Lecka

After Carl Edwards' disappointing season and the departure of Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing enters the offseason with more questions than answers. What those questions are along with some possible solutions are touched upon in today's edition of the NASCAR offseason analysis series.

2012 In The Rearview

When the 2012 NASCAR season started it seemed a given that Carl Edwards would be the flag bearer for Roush Fenway Racing with Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth falling in behind.

However, as the season moved along it was Biffle and Kenseth who quickly asserted themselves as championship contenders. Combined, the duo won five races and together, led the standings during the regular season 21 of 26 weeks and easily made the Chase.

All the while, Edwards was inconsistent, shuffled through two crew chiefs, went winless and ultimately failed to qualify for the Chase.

2013 Driver Lineup

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford); Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Best Buy Ford); Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal/Subway/Kellogg's Ford)

Key Changes

After one Cup championship and 24 wins, Matt Kenseth surprisingly decided to leave the organization he's been with for the previous 13 years. Roush quickly tabbed Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as Kenseth's replacement. It is a promotion Stenhouse has more than earned, having won the Nationwide Series title the last two seasons.

Kenseth's departure isn't the only change taking place at Roush this offseason, as the team has moved his old crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, over to the 99 team.

Also, Scott Graves will guide Stenhouse during his rookie campaign, while Matt Puccia will again call the shots for Biffle.

Biggest Offseason Question

There's been a pattern throughout Edwards' career that after a terrific season that raises expectations for the following year, he tends to struggle and fails to come anywhere close to fulfilling his promise.

Because that again was the case in 2012, this offseason needs to be spent evaluating why Edwards regressed the way he did last year and what can be done going forward to better handle expectations.

Edwards' problems a year ago -- as evident by the success of his teammates -- had nothing to do with subpar equipment. And it didn't help that his crew chief, Bob Osborne, was dealing with some health issues which necessitated him stepping down in late July. But even after Chad Norris came aboard, something was still amiss and showed there were deeper issues within the No. 99 team.

Whether the veteran Fennig can right the listing ship remains to be seen, but he has a track record of quickly meshing with his drivers and putting them on the road to success. However, until he does so with Edwards, there will be a giant question mark hanging over the heads of the 99 bunch.

Outlook

For the first time in a while Roush will enter the season not expected to contend for the championship. But all things considered, that might not be a bad thing, as Biffle and Edwards have both been better when the proverbial bar is set low. And it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see both in the winner's circle a couple of times and competing for the championship when the Chase rolls around.

As for Stenhouse, his rookie season will be about growing and learning from his mistakes -- which will inevitably come. If everything goes accordingly, the two-time Nationwide champ will post several solid results, finish 20th or better in points and with the right breaks, perhaps win a race.

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