Even though he came in with 10 seasons of full-time Sprint Cup experience, Carl Edwards still felt somewhat like a rookie in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015.
Everything was different and new: manufacturer, sponsor, teammates, crew chief, pit crew, team owner and more.
And while there still was some uncertainty and growing pains, Edwards had a good first year for JGR.
He had two wins, seven top-five and 15 top-10 finishes, almost identical to his performance in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing in 2014.
He also made the Chase for the second consecutive season, finishing fifth (ninth with Roush in 2014). He also was the second-highest finishing JGR driver, following teammate and 2015 Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch.
Needless to say, Edwards can’t wait to pick up in 2016 where he left off at the end of last season.
“I’m very excited about the season,” Edwards said during last week’s NASCAR Media Tour. “This last year, I learned a lot about the organization.
“And with (new crew chief) Dave Rogers coming on board, I’m excited about that relationship. We just got done with a snowmobile trip that he put together. I learned a lot about him: he has no fear. We all made it out of that and I’m just excited to get to Daytona and get to some racing.”
Edwards has now raced for two of the most successful and iconic team owners in NASCAR history, first Jack Roush and now for Joe Gibbs.
“Coach Gibbs, he only does things one way, that’s to the best of his ability,” Edwards said. “That fourth team (Edwards’ team), he put it together. It was 100 percent the best of everything, we got the best people we could get.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Gibbs and being around him for a year, I can see he cares about people, cares about performance, and that’s why we run well.”
As stoic and even-keeled as Gibbs appears publicly, Edwards was pleasantly surprised to see another side of the three-time Super Bowl winning coach and four-time Sprint Cup-winning team owner.
“He’s done a number of things that have surprised me. But really the thing about Coach Gibbs that surprised me the most is anything that does to do with personnel, he really takes it seriously.
“He thinks of people and their families, talks about what’s the right thing to do, and that’s the way he does it. It’s really neat to be around that.”