HAMPTON, Ga. — Carl Edwards sounded downright giddy after a practice session Friday, not at all like someone who's in danger of missing out on a chance to race for his first Cup title.
NASCAR's only stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway couldn't have come at a better time for him.
Heck, if the ceiling had been a little higher in the infield media center, Edwards might've done one of his patented backflips.
"We could not be at a better place," he said. "I love this place."
Last year's Sprint Cup runner-up is struggling just to make the Chase for the championship, coming into Sunday night's AdvoCare 500 ranked 12th in the point standings. The top 10 get in, plus two wild cards based on season victories, and Edwards has yet to win this season.
So, his mission his clear: win in Atlanta or next week in Richmond.
If not, he'll be spending the final 10 races as an outsider in the title race, with no way to make up for the galling Cup loss to Tony Stewart in the finale last season.
"We recognize the position we're in," Edwards said. "We don't like it. The only thing we can do is go out and race like we've got nothing to lose because, in a way, we don't."
This 1.54-mile tri-oval is one of Edwards' most successful tracks. His first Cup victory came at Atlanta in 2005. Overall, he has three wins at the high-banked speedway, along with seven other top-10 finishes.
Many NASCAR tracks that have been repaved in recent years, leaving a slicker surface that reduces tire wear but cuts down on the chances to really go racing. No so in Atlanta, where the 15-year-old surface is gritty and challenging. There are numerous passing grooves, but drivers must also concern themselves with how much grip they're losing with each lap.
Edwards is thrilled about the possibilities.
"We need a place where I can let the car hang out, where the car goes faster on fresh tires than on old tires," he said. "This track is one where you can drive the car sideways, take some chances. You can burn the tires off for three laps, make it look good, and put yourself in position to do something spectacular. It's not like fresh pavement, where everyone is struck to one groove."
6:30 p.m. Sunday, ESPN