The disappointing lack of good results for Carl Edwards in 2012 certainly played a role in his team's crew chief change last week. But Saturday at Indianapolis, Edwards intimated that the health of his former team leader played was a much larger factor than originally thought - and that the extent even caught Edwards off guard.
"I would say that I was really surprised when Bob (Osborne) sat down and talked to us about the things he is going through," Edwards said. "He is a very tough man."
That meeting happened the Monday after NASCAR's most recent trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a race in which Edwards finished 18th. A decision was then made by team owner Jack Roush to shift Osborne to another role at Roush Fenway Racing and move Chad Norris to Edwards' pit box.
"It is a pretty interesting set of circumstances and pretty wild how it all came together," Edwards said. "But I think we are doing the right thing for Bob, which is most important, and then also for our race team. I think it is good as we could do."
Edwards didn't want to elaborate on Osborne's ailment, and declined to say if it was a detriment to Edwards' on-track success this season.
"I would have to let Bob answer that," Edwards said. "I know a couple of you guys insinuated… and have thought that this health thing is not as big a deal as it seems. I can't overstate that Bob is a very, very dedicated guy to our sport and he is going through something right now that would be tough for anyone. For him to have done what he has done at this level and to have kept it quiet - he is just a tough, tough man."
The change for Edwards will be abrupt when comparing the styles of Osborne and Norris. Osborne is an engineer first and Norris isn't, so Roush has moved a third engineer to work on Edwards' No. 99 as a result of Osborne's departure.
"The structure seems to be a little different where it will be a standard crew chief-driver combination where he will rely on the engineers more than Bob because he doesn't have same engineering background," Edwards said. "I think there will be times where that is better and times where that is worse."
Norris and Edwards will also be working together for the first time while getting to know one another. Edwards, who had no role in choosing his next crew chief, was surprised Norris was the name called.
"I didn't realize his experience, which is pretty extensive," Edwards said. "The kind of guy he seems to be and the way the guys have embraced him, I think it will be pretty good."
Edwards credited Norris' work in the Roush Fenway research and development department as a boon to his team.
"Chad knows a lot about what is going with these cars. He is on the cutting edge with what we are doing with all of our cars," Edwards said. "No slight to him, I just had no clue he was sitting there waiting for something like this. I had never thought about that. But I think it's going to be good."
The news of Norris moving to Edwards' team made the new crew chief a bit of a cult hero on Twitter last week when the NASCAR community adapted his name to the Chuck Norris joke phenomenon. Chad Norris has a great a sense of humor, Edwards said, and called the jokes hilarious.
"I thought I was the only one that thought of that, and I started getting texts. They were really good," Edwards said. We are having fun and I hope it continues."
Edwards, in his first official work with Norris, was 12th fastest in the first practice Saturday in Indianapolis for Sunday's Crown Royal 400.