HAMPTON, Ga. — There are no distractions for Carl Edwards inside his race car.
But that's the only place he has been at peace since NASCAR officials discovered the lid from the oil tank on his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was missing after his victory last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
That was the second straight victory for Edwards, and it should have been a time to talk about leading the Sprint Cup standings for the first time and about the possibilities of making it three in a row in today's Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Instead, he has spent most of the week answering questions about that lid, being docked 100 points — dropping him to seventh in the standings — and losing crew chief Bob Osborne to a six-week suspension.
Edwards figures he has handled the situation pretty well.
"I believe the last year or two I've been hardened a lot," he said. "The only distraction is having to … talk about it.
"I have a very simple job and that's not to make any mistakes in that race car and go as fast as I can, so that's what I keep doing. I get my joy out of doing that job well. So, for me personally, it's more of just a nuisance to have to come over here and talk about this because I know what happened and it really doesn't matter to me what other people say about it."
What other people, including a lot of competitors, have been saying is that they think the Roush Fenway team intentionally let the oil tank lid come off to gain an aerodynamic advantage, estimated by several crew chiefs at 100-170 pounds of downforce.
"It's fine by me if folks want to get worked up about it," Edwards said. "Then we've got 'em right where we want 'em. We're just racing hard."
Team owner Jack Roush has consistently denied any intent to cheat.
"We're not culpable," Roush said Friday. "It was not our intent. We did not have the expectation that that thing would come off, but apparently there's enough cheaters out there that have been playing in this area that they know absolutely for sure how much it's worth and the fact that there's an advantage."
Roush said he would consider appealing if his team thinks it could get Osborne's suspension shortened or dropped. But the owner wasn't optimistic.
"The fact is, I've appealed (to the National Stock Car Commission) no less than four and probably more than six times in the 22 years I've been in this business, and I've gotten relief exactly zero times in spite of the fact that the facts were in my favor many times."
With Osborne back home in Charlotte, N.C., Chris Andrews, Roush Fenway's chief engineer, has overseen the preparation of the No. 99 Ford. Longtime Matt Kenseth crew chief Robbie Reiser, Roush Fenway's general manager, will call the race from Edwards' pit box.
That pairing is interesting in light of some bad blood between Edwards and Kenseth that came to light last fall when the teammates had a pit road confrontation after a race in Martinsville.
Edwards and Kenseth said the Martinsville incident, in which Edwards balled his right fist and appeared close to swinging at Kenseth, was precipitated by more than just what happened that day. But it appears fences have been mended.
"It's great for Robbie to do that," Edwards said of Reiser. "I have a lot of respect for Robbie and that (No.) 17 team, Matt especially for being able to sacrifice in the short term for us to be better. It's really cool."
Through three of 36 races. The top 12 through 26 races qualify for the Chase for the Championship.
Driver Pts. Back
Kyle Busch 470—
Ryan Newman 450 20
Kasey Kahne 444 26
Kevin Harvick 428 42
Greg Biffle 427 43
Jeff Burton 421 49
Carl Edwards 391 79
Martin Truex 371 99
Elliott Sadler 368 102
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 361 109
Tony Stewart 355 115
Kurt Busch 348 122
Kobalt Tools 500, 2 p.m., Atlanta Motor Speedway
TV: Ch. 13