Edwards ends winless streak

The moderator started to ask Carl Edwards about breaking his
70-race winless streak when he interrupted.

”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.

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