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.