As an aspiring 17-year-old race car driver, Carl Edwards would stop at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway after work. He¿d watch the driving school cars circle the legendary 1.5-mile track and dream of one day being a NASCAR star.

When Edwards, now 24, returns to Lowe¿s Motor Speedway Friday night, May 21, for the Infineon 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, the Columbia, Mo., native will be well on his way to living that dream.

¿I came down to Concord that summer and worked for Ken Schrader in his shop,¿ said Edwards. ¿I¿d bug him by trying to talk him into letting me drive one of his cars. I did everything from sweeping floors to trimming weeds. I was like a lot of young racers, I was doing everything I could to chase my dream.

¿After work, I¿d go over to the speedway, go up in the grandstands and watch the driving schools,¿ Edwards continued. ¿I can remember standing there one night and thinking I was never going to get the chance to race at a place that was this awesome. So racing at Charlotte is very, very special to me.¿

Edwards first caught the eye of team owner Jack Roush in 2002 when he ran a limited¿but impressive¿seven-race truck series schedule. Roush had spoken with Edwards about the possibility of driving for him, but there wasn¿t an empty seat in Roush¿s stable.

¿When Kyle Busch decided to leave Roush Racing and signed with Hendrick Motorsports, that opened a ride for me,¿ said Edwards. ¿They called and offered me the truck ride for the full 2003 season. When I got that phone call with the offer to drive for Jack Roush, it was unreal. I didn¿t sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time for a whole week because I was so excited.¿

Edwards knew he had been presented with the opportunity of a lifetime and needed to make the most of it. He did just that by winning three races in his first full season on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series circuit and finished eighth in the point standings.

Edwards started the current season by winning at Daytona. During the post-race press conference, Roush revealed Edwards was on the fast track to a NEXTEL Cup Series ride.

¿Carl is the heir apparent to the No. 6 car after Mark Martin retires,¿ Roush said. ¿I just hope we can get Mark to keep going until we get Carl a championship in the truck series and a chance to run for the championship in the Busch Series. Then, I'd like to see Carl take over for Mark in the No. 6 car.¿

Roush¿s revelation was somewhat of a bombshell, surprising media members¿and Edwards.

¿I¿d heard some rumblings about that possibility, but to hear Jack say it in public was really awesome,¿ said Edwards, who drives Roush¿s No. 99 Superchips Ford. ¿To me, that kind of made it a reality as well as a great honor. Mark Martin is one of my heroes and somebody I looked up to as a racer even before I got involved with Roush Racing. Mark worked so hard to get to where he is today and you¿ve got to admire his dedication, plus he is a very well respected man. So to even be considered as a driver to sit in that No. 6 car whenever Mark decides to retire is awesome. It makes me want to work even harder every day.¿

Edwards has quickly gone from a racer with simple Midwestern roots to a driver standing on the threshold of stardom in NASCAR¿s top division. But without a doubt, the question he receives most often is about the origin of his unique victory celebration.

¿My buddy had a trampoline in his yard and we used to play on it everyday,¿ Edwards said. ¿Man, we really wore that thing out jumping up and down and doing flips. We¿d even jump out of trees onto it. Then, after a World of Outlaws race, I saw Tyler Walker do a back flip and I thought that was the coolest thing I¿d ever seen. So I started doing a flip each time I won in my dirt modified car and the crowd really liked it.

¿Then, when I got my first win in the trucks at Kentucky, I thought I¿d give the flip thing a shot. If you go back and watch the tape when I was standing on top of the truck, I was a little disoriented because I¿d parked on the banking. I started to fall back so I thought it was now or never to give the flip a try. I was lucky it worked out.¿

Next on Edwards¿ agenda is performing a back flip at the track where he once sat in the stands and dreamed of competing.

¿If I can win at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway, you¿re definitely going to see me flying through the air,¿ Edwards exclaimed. ¿To win at Charlotte would be the ultimate victory.¿

Tickets for the May 21 Infineon 200, which will follow qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, start at just $20 and can be obtained by calling 1-800-455-FANS.