It was nine years ago Thursday that Carl Edwards won his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Edwards was driving the #99 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing that afternoon and passed Jimmie Johnson off the high side of turn four to take the victory. It was one of the more thrilling finishes in Atlanta Motor Speedway history.
For Edwards the win was gigantic for his career. Edwards had shown some promise in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series, winning his first Nationwide Series race just a day earlier in 2005. Edwards was a driver that was sort of on the fence at Roush Fenway Racing. Edwards did a great job for the team running the final 13 races of the 2004 season in the #99 Ford and was hired to drive the car full-time in the 2005 season. While Edwards had an opportunity to race after the win sponsors began to support Edwards and his trademark back flip. Add his skill with his likability and Edwards was destined to become NASCAR's next superstar.
It turned out to be true. Edwards did become a superstar and while he has yet to win a Sprint Cup Series championship Edwards has become one of the best drivers in the sport since that victory and has been a staple at Roush Fenway Racing since that day.
The win not only did wonders for Edwards career but it also was a huge deal for Roush Fenway Racing as an organization. The team had a five car operation back in 2005 with drivers Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Edwards. Looking back at how things played out at Roush Fenway Racing if Carl Edwards turned out to be a bust it's a wonder what happens to Roush Fenway Racing. Obviously Matt Kenseth was extremely successful for the organization before moving on to Joe Gibbs Racing prior to the 2013 season. Greg Biffle is still Edwards' teammate at Roush Fenway Racing and Kurt Busch left the organization after the 2005 season, being replaced by Jamie McMurray. Mark Martin would run one more season for the organization and would be replaced by David Ragan in the #6 Ford.
McMurray and Ragan are no longer with the team and have moved on to other organizations. There is no doubt that Edwards is the lead driver at Roush Fenway Racing. You have to wonder where the organization would be if Edwards did not turn out to be the Carl Edwards we know, helped by the win at Atlanta Motor Speedway nine years ago Thursday.
Check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.