|Edwards ends winless streak|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 14 November 2010 15:52|
``I'm well aware of that,'' Edwards said, smiling while adjusting his chair.
Indeed it had been a long time since Edwards had taken the checkers; his last Sprint Cup win was Nov. 16, 2008, at Homestead.
He ended the drought in convincing fashion, leading every practice session, capturing the pole and finishing off the perfect weekend by winning a fuel-strategy race at Phoenix International Speedway on Sunday.
With most of the field cutting it close on fuel, Edwards was able to keep just enough in the tank to cross the checkers, circle back and punctuate the win with his patented backflip.
That wasn't enough, though; he also charged into the crowd through an open gate and heaved the checkered flag into the stands.
Yeah, Edwards was happy to get that anchor off his car.
``I have a lot of confidence and we all work really hard, so we expect to win,'' said Edwards, who also won the Nationwide race Saturday. ``We've had a lot of success before and with that comes a little more expectation, not just outside but within. I'm very proud how this team came together this past two years since we last won.''
Edwards was competing for season championships just a couple of years ago, winning 16 career races, but suddenly couldn't find his way to the checkers. He came close with a second in Chicago earlier this season and was good enough to qualify for the Chase for the Championship, but kept hearing the questions about why he couldn't win.
Edwards ended the discussion in emphatically, leading five times for 93 laps, overtaking Denny Hamlin with about 45 laps left and holding off Ryan Newman to the line.
``It had been far too long since we had been in Victory Circle with Carl,'' team owner Jack Rousch said. ``Everybody expects Carl to win and Carl expects to win, so we're proud.''
It came down to fuel mileage.
Because of the way the cautions fell, most of the leaders weren't sure if they'd be able to make it to the end. After the last caution, Edwards came out racing hard, but noticed some of the others were slowing down, evidently to save fuel. He backed off for a little while, but still had a nervous feeling in his stomach over the final two laps.
``I don't know the analogy, but you're putting yourself out there and you've chosen this path just hoping it works out, that the race goes the distance, that the fuel I was saving was just the right amount,'' said Edwards, fourth in the Chase points, 218 behind Hamlin. ``There's so much to be gained by winning a race and it's such a gutsy call, you just have to sit and wait. Those are some long laps, those last few laps.''
HARVICK'S NEAR DISASTER: Kevin Harvick's Chase chances nearly wobbled away with a lost lugnut.
Fortunately, he was able to recover and keep the leaders within reach.
Third in the Chase standings entering the day, Harvick quickly made up ground after starting 29th. He hovered around the top 10 most of the day and was running fifth late in the race, right behind Jimmie Johnson and Hamlin, the two drivers he was chasing.
Harvick's day took a potentially devastating turn with about 90 laps left, when missing lugnut from a pit stop during a caution sent him back to the pits with a penalty. He restarted 18th, but was able to work his way back up and save enough fuel to finish sixth.
``We were just lucky, to be honest with you,'' Harvick said. ``These guys on pit road do a great job and just made a mistake. I was pretty down and thought 'there it went.' ... We dodged one for sure and still have a chance next week, which is all I can ask.''
Harvick has more than just a chance. By salvaging the lugnut flub and saving fuel, he moved closer to the Chase lead, making up 13 points on Hamlin, right behind Johnson. With one race left, Harvick is right where he wants to be, 46 points back and ready to pounce.
``I know what my mindset is: I hope to put pressure on Denny and be on his mind throughout the course week,'' Harvick said. ``Those guys better be on their toes. Not only do we have the 48 to worry about, we have the 29 and it's going to be one race winner take all.
LOGANO'S STREAK: Joey Logano is on pace to win next year's Daytona 500.
Starting with his seventh at Charlotte, Logano has gotten incrementally better with each race, finishing sixth, fifth, fourth and capping it with a third at Phoenix, behind Edwards and Ryan Newman.
Finish second next week at Homestead and, well, the next logical step would be to win the next race: at Daytona in February.
``Our last few finishes have been pretty crazy,'' Logano said. ``We've been seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and third in a row, so that's pretty crazy.''
JOHNSON'S PITS: The pit crew on Johnson's No. 48 struggling last week at Texas, crew chief Chad Knaus took the unusual step of swapping them out for teammate Jeff Gordon's crew.
The swap was still in place for Phoenix and it worked out well for Johnson, whose substitute crew was clean every stop to finish with the fastest times of the 43 teams in the race.
``The pit stops were great today,'' said Johnson, who finished fifth. ``The guys really stepped up in the situation and did their job. Truthfully, their pit stops kept us up front all day because we struggled a little bit on track.''
KAHNE'S CAN: Kasey Kahne's No. 83 car had a bit of an aerodynamic problem for a lap midway through the race: the gas can was still attached.
Kahne's crew couldn't get the can off before he left the pit stall, so Kahne had to turn a lap with the big red can sticking out the back like a shark fin. He made it around, had the crew pull it off, then was assessed a penalty for failing to remove equipment. Kahne finished 30th.
PIT STOPS: Brendan Gaughan's day didn't last long. His No. 71 Chevy, 35th in owner's points heading into the race, blew a right front tire on the second lap, slammed into the wall and was done for the race. He remained 35th, the cutoff for guaranteed spots in races. ... Brad Keselowski went out after 58 laps when his right front end gave out. ... Newman had a good day: he finished second and his wife didn't go into labor, which would have forced him to make a decision about staying in the car or heading home for the birth of his first child.