Edwards has the million-dollar ride

BY foxsports • May 21, 2011

Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards is NASCAR’s latest million-dollar man.

Edwards dominated the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, winning multiple segments and utilizing stellar pit strategy to take the million dollar prize. He made his lone mistake as he tried to celebrate with a burnout and ended up damaging his car.

"I don't think it's sunk in yet," he said of the win. "I'm really excited to be able to get on the phone (and talk to friends) and (to go race in) Iowa tomorrow, it will be neat to show up there as the all-star winner. It's going to be fun.

''That's a million dollars. We just won a million dollars. I feel so bad about tearing up the car. But I'm sure [crew chief Bob Osborne's] got a better one.''

Edwards took a pair of segment victories into the final and determining 10-lap run, then held position through the final required four-tire stop to restart with the lead.

After a 10-minute break between the final two segments, during which teams could make some changes, but not to tires or fuel, teams headed to pit road.

The break was something Edwards and his team found left them a bit edgy.

"There was a lot of discussion about changes, what to do, why we should do this, a lot of back and forth," Bob Osborne said. "It was more ... nerve-racking than what we're usually experiencing on a pit cycle."

Osborne also admitted that he was glad it was a mandatory four-tire stop, instead of letting teams choose whether to gamble on two or not.

Edwards led the field, followed by Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin following entering the pits. After the stop, the top three held position, but Matt Kenseth and David Reutimann moved into the top five.

Edwards jumped out on the restart, with Busch and Biffle battling for second.

"The restart was good," said Edwards, who had spun his tires on a previous one. "Man, that thing really runs. You do have to be careful, especially these engines that they brought for the all-star race. They're fast. It was a great restart. It could have gone either way. I mean, Kyle could have really hung in there and it would have been a really tough race, so I'm glad we were able to get him."

Reutimann moved into the fray, slipping between Busch and Biffle. Suddenly, the field a little further back knotted into a mass trying to get to the front. Jimmie Johnson bounced off teammate Mark Martin as they tried to avoid Kurt Busch’s car. Martin went to the garage with five laps to go.

Meanwhile, Edwards was pulling away from the field. In his pursuit of the million-dollar purse, he built a lead of 0.8 seconds with four laps to go. History was against him — no one had won segment three and then held on to take the all-star win since it went to four segments. But Edwards did just that, winning by almost half a second over Busch.

"As far as he jumped out on me really surprised me,'' Busch said. ''He took off so far, I was like 'Damn, there ain't no way I am going to be able to run him down in this short period of time.'

"Unfortunately, we just didn't quite have enough there at the end of the race in the final 10."

Pit strategy began to play a key role between the second and third segments. As the second segment ended, Edwards appeared ready to pit as he had only taken two tires on his last stop, but stayed on the track at the last minute. Six of the top seven opted to remain on the track with only Johnson, second at the time, pitting for two tires.

On the restart, Edwards spun his tires and Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch jumped on the opening. Busch moved into the lead and Gordon slipped around as well on Lap 71. Busch pulled away quickly and Edwards began to make back up lost ground, then a caution came out for Regan Smith’s spin on Lap 75.

On Lap 84, Edwards began to challenge Kyle Busch for the lead. They raced side by side briefly, then Edwards stormed ahead with five to go in the segment and held on to win it, continuing his run from the front after the second segment.

Drivers had pitted between the opening two segments, with a few taking only two tires. Edwards, Johnson and Kasey Kahne were among those, taking the top three positions to restart the segment. Opening-segment winner Biffle was fourth to open the 20-lap run.

On Lap 58, Edwards pulled away to a 1.865-second lead. And then Kahne slammed into the wall with Biffle on his rear. There was no contact between the two, but Kahne incurred significant damage and heads to the garage. The drivers at the back of the field opted to pit during the caution while those at the front stayed out.

Johnson took the lead following the incident, but Edwards retook it with two laps remaining to win the segment.

He had been gaining strength throughout the race.

Biffle led the Ford attack in the opening 50-lap segment, leading 46 laps en route to the segment win. Edwards finished second to him in this run. Kyle Busch, Kahne and Stewart rounded out the top five.

In the early laps, Edwards was trying out different lines on the track. He worked to find which would allow him the greatest advantage, and then began cutting into the deficit to Biffle and Kyle Busch. Edwards took second on Lap 19.

Meanwhile as the laps wore on, Brad Keselowski, who advanced by finishing as runner-up in the Sprint Showdown, soon had problems as he struggled to get his brakes to engage. That would cost him when he had to wait an extra lap to pit on the mandatory four-tire stop on lap 25.

The opening pit stop was costly for the Penske cars. Kurt Busch was assessed a penalty for a tire violation which, combined with the lack of performance from his car, began a series of rather despondent comments on his radio to his team. Keselowski lost time as he had to wait until he could pit alone based on his brake issue.

Edwards, though, lost no time at all. He and Osborne pieced together a near perfect race - and reaped the rewards with the $1 million payday.

"It is a very big deal," Edwards said of the payday. "... We've all been very fortunate. We've got great incomes. We're doing what we love. We all started at a different place. I think every driver out there respects that Sprint is putting up a huge amount of money for us to go race for.

"It's just surreal, it really is."

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