MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 30, 2008) – Carl Edwards may have crossed the finish line running on the fumes from his fuel tank, but it was enough to carry him to a ninth-place finish, the best of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career at the paperclip-shaped track in southern Virginia. Edwards used pit strategy midway through the race to gain track position, and was able to cash in on the gamble on Sunday afternoon.
Edwards took the green flag in the 27th position, but quickly moved his way towards the front of the field. By lap 19, Edwards advanced the No. 99 Claritin Ford to the 18th position. He reported in the early running that the handling of his Fusion was perfect, telling the crew that he had the best car he’s ever had at Martinsville. As the laps continued to click off, Edwards continued his climb through the field, showing in the 11th position when the caution flag was displayed at lap 43.
Crew chief Robbie Reiser elected to bring Edwards to pit road for tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment. Many of the leaders elected to stay out and hold onto their track position, dropping Edwards to the 20th position for the lap 47 restart. Edwards reported early in the run that the air pressure change improved the handling, and it showed as he began to pick up the positions he’d lost when he came to pit road. Edwards cracked the top-10 at lap 83, when he worked his way around the No. 12 car. The No. 99 was in the eighth position by the time the caution flag was displayed at lap 105 for a spin involving the No. 96 car. Edwards followed the rest of the leaders down pit road to the attention of the Claritin crew, who performed routine service of four tires and fuel. Quick work on pit road gained Edwards two positions, sending him out in the sixth spot for the lap 109 restart.
Edwards continued to hold his own in the early part of the next green flag run, racing with Roush Fenway Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and David Ragan for the fourth and fifth positions. While he looked strong in the early going, Edwards began to backslide through the frontrunners, dropping back to the 11th position at lap 176. Edwards reported to Reiser that the chassis had become very loose, wanting to spin out in the corners. Edwards caught a break at lap 181 when the caution flag was thrown for debris on the racetrack, allowing him to come to pit road for tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment.
Edwards restarted in the 12th position, and reported early that it felt like the Claritin Ford had lost overall grip. Edwards did what he could to continue making forward progress and caught a break again at lap 260 when the caution flag was displayed again after the No. 77 car spun. Reiser and Edwards decided to come to pit road, taking on tires, fuel and undoing the track bar adjustment made on the previous stop. The No. 99 crew pulled off a fast stop, sending Edwards back on track in the eighth position for the lap 264 restart.
Edwards continued to hold his position inside the top-10 over the course of the next green flag run. When the caution flag was displayed at lap 362, Reiser elected to take a gamble, bringing Edwards down pit road when most of the leaders stayed out. Edwards got four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment to help the handling of the No. 99 Ford. Since some of the leaders elected to stay on the racetrack, Edwards lined up 11th for the restart at lap 366. The driver and crew chief agreed that it was a bit of a risk to come to pit road when others stayed out, but both felt it was the right decision to make.
It wouldn’t take long for the No. 99 Claritin team to see the benefit from their choice. When the caution flag was displayed at lap 386 for a spin involving the No. 41 car, the leaders that stayed out on the previous caution came down pit road for what would be their final stops on the day. Edwards stayed on track, advancing to the third position. Reiser and Edwards knew that their gamble would leave them extremely close to running out of fuel, but felt they would catch some breaks in the final 100 laps that would help them to make it to the finish.
Edwards jockeyed for the third and fourth positions over the course of the green flag run, eventually settling into the fourth spot. As the laps clicked off, Reiser began to radio Edwards about being short on fuel to make it to the distance. Hoping to get caution periods to stretch their fuel mileage, Reiser kept his driver posted on what their plan would be should different scenarios unfold. Unfortunately for Reiser, the caution flags he hoped for never came, and it appeared Edwards would have to come to pit road for a splash of fuel. Reiser made the call to bring Edwards to pit road at lap 490 for a splash of fuel, but called it off when Edwards reported that the fuel pressure gauge was not fluctuating. With the Claritin crew poised on pit road ready to service the car if needed, Reiser left the decision to Edwards.
As each lap passed, Edwards reported that the fuel pressure remained constant. Edwards took the white flag, and all the crew could do was cross their fingers and hope that they had the fuel to make it the distance. As Edwards headed into turn three, the fuel tank went dry. Edwards was able to coast to the finish line in the ninth position, recording his best finish at the speedway in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
Following their ninth-place finish at Martinsville, Edwards and the No. 99 team advanced two spots to the 14th position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. The Sprint Cup Series races next at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 6, 2008.
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About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.