Rolex 24 breakthrough a long time coming for Edwards

Image by Richard Dole/LAT

Rolex 24 breakthrough a long time coming for Edwards

IMSA

Rolex 24 breakthrough a long time coming for Edwards

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The biggest win of John Edwards’ career was balanced by a mundane appointment that can’t help but keep a driver’s ego in check.

Less than 48 hours after taking victory for BMW Team RLL at the Rolex 24 At Daytona (pictured middle, above), the former open-wheel champion was sitting motionless in a chair, gripping the armrests, and staring at the ceiling while his dentist went to work with picks and tools inside his mouth.

Edwards would have been excused if he canceled the visit and went on a week-long bender followed his success in Daytona. Considering how the Kentuckian’s decade-plus in professional sports car racing has rarely been kind or generous in the results column, his role as the veteran in the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE he shares with Jesse Krohn, Chaz Mostert, and Augusto Farfus, was significant as the menacing black sedan rolled into victory lane.

Despite his youthful age, the 28-year-old has amassed more than a decade in sports car competition following his 2009 Atlantic Championship title. Speed and race craft have never been in question with Edwards, but if there have been random mechanical failures or bad luck to find someone in the teams he’s driven for, it’s typically made a beeline for the BMW factory driver’s entry.

In capturing North America’s most prestigious endurance win, hopefully the racing gods will keep picking a different target and give Edwards the reprieve he’s deserved for many years.

“You’re not the first person to express that,” Edwards said while driving away from the dentist. “And even a couple of the drivers I’ve worked with, been teammates with before — even the guys in the sister car, Bruno Spengler and Phillipp Eng — had some similar words to say. But I realized, everybody’s saying that mostly because of all the terrible luck I’ve had, so I’m not sure if that really says a lot about me or just more about what I’ve been through…”

As a precocious youngster in 2004, Edwards appeared set for a long career in open-wheel. But history had other plans for him. Image by LAT

Had Edwards’ career continued on its open-wheel path, there’s no doubt he’d be driving for a top IndyCar team today. Lost in the merger between Champ Car and the former Indy Racing League, Edwards’ talent was undeniable, but with no invitations to the big series, he went where the offers were made, and has remained in sports cars as a vital cog in BMW’s factory GT Le Mans program.

As part of the BMW Team RLL effort since 2013, Edwards has built a stellar reputation within the squad, and despite the aforementioned bad luck, his contributions to the team have been consistent. Talent and stature aside, worries did begin to set in as the final hours of a ragged fight with the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR let to the inevitable concerns that something would go awry before the checkered flag.

The intensity of the GTLM battle never gave Edwards or his BMW Team RLL teammates a moment’s rest until the checkered flag. Or even then… Image by Jake Galstad / LAT Images)

“My dad was watching in the morning, and my mom said at some point when I started my third stint, he got so stressed he had to walk away and stop watching for a few minutes,” he said. “He went and laid down on the bed, and of course he wasn’t able to sleep but he just had to take a break. He was too stressed out about it. And unfortunately, my wife was not able to come to Daytona this year, although she normally does, and she got a lot less sleep than I did, because I slept four or five hours in the middle of the night and apparently she was waking up every half hour in a panic just wondering if we were still in it.

“So, I think our history has added up to cause everybody a lot of stress, and my teammate Chaz said it best that, ‘Jesse crossed the [finish] line, we’re all cheering,’ but he said he still looked back as Jesse was going into Turn 1, wondering if something else was going to go wrong… And I mean he had crossed the line, he had the checker, but he’s like, ‘Something’s going to go wrong. I can feel it. It’s too good to be true.’ So, it was a big moment of relief and definitely a big monkey off our backs.”

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