DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2008) – Racing at Daytona International Speedway can be extremely intense, with driver’s fortunes and positions changing with every lap turned. A driver can be well on his way to a top finish, then taken out of contention in the blink of an eye. Carl Edwards started mid-pack on Saturday night at Daytona, and experienced many of the highs and lows that restrictor plate racing can produce. But Edwards experienced his highs at the right time, in the closing stages of the 400-mile race. Unfortunately for Edwards, his efforts came up just inches short of picking up the victory.
Edwards took the green flag in the 24th position, and quickly advanced positions with the completion of each of the opening laps. As the field raced side by side, Edwards’ position changed drastically with the completion of each lap. When Edwards’ No. 99 Aflac Ford shuffled towards the back of the field, he elected to stay where he was rather than work his way towards the front of the pack, letting the leaders sort themselves out. Edwards began to complain of a loose in, tight off condition at both ends of the 2.5-mile speedway, and when the caution flag was displayed at lap 19, Edwards got the opportunity he needed to come to pit road for adjustments.
When pit road opened, Edwards brought the No. 99 to the attention of the Aflac crew, taking on four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Quick work on pit road gained Edwards seven positions for the restart, lining him up in the 26th position for the lap 23 restart. Once the green flag waved, the leaders began to race hard for positions. Knowing there was no need to risk being involved in an incident, Edwards again elected to drop to the tail of the field. Edwards reported that he continued to fight a tight condition off the corners, and that it felt as if the front tires had no grip. When the No. 12 car spun at lap 43 to bring out the caution flag, Edwards elected to come to pit road once again for adjustments to his Aflac Ford. Crew chief Bob Osborne made the call to take on four tires, fuel, a wedge adjustment and to remove front shims to help the front end grip. Edwards rejoined the field in the 37th position for the lap 46 restart.
Early in the ensuing green flag run, Edwards reported that the changed made on the last stop greatly helped the handling of his Aflac Ford. As the laps clicked off, Edwards began to work his way towards the front of the pack. Edwards broke inside the top-10 for the first time at lap 83, and as the draft continued to shuffle the running order, Edwards position changed each time he crossed the start-finish line.
When the No. 19 car blew a right front tire and brought out the caution flag at lap 108, the leaders came to pit road for service. Osborne instructed Edwards to stay on the racetrack, hoping to lead a lap by staying on the track. Unfortunately the No. 88 car beat Edwards to the line and was scored the leader. The second time by, Edwards again stayed on the racetrack to inherit the lead, picking up five bonus points for leading a lap. Edwards then came to pit road at lap 112 to take on four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. When the race restarted at lap 113, Edwards was scored in the 34th position.
Despite restarting at the back of the field, Edwards quickly worked his way back to the leaders. At lap 128, Edwards reassumed the 10th position. Despite a series of late-race caution periods, Edwards was able to maintain his position and avoid the wrecks happening around him. In the closing stages of the race, Edwards began to run down the leaders. Just as he advanced to the third position, a big wreck behind the leaders unfolded, resulting in a late-race caution that would send the field into a green-white-checkered flag overtime finish.
Edwards took the final green flag of the night in the third position, lining up behind race leader Kyle Busch and second place Jeff Gordon. As the cars began to come up to speed, Gordon’s No. 24 car got out of line, then cut across the nose of the Aflac Ford. The contact sent Gordon spinning towards the infield, but Edwards continued to chase down Busch’s No. 18. As the field worked their way through turns one and two, a big wreck unfolded behind the leaders, forcing NASCAR to throw the caution flag. The finishing order was determined at the instant the caution flag was displayed, and after some confusion as to who would be declared the race winner, Busch was called to victory lane leaving Edwards as the second-place finisher.
“Man, I’d have given anything to be able to run at least down to the end of the back straightaway, but that’s the way it went and Kyle did a great job,” said Edwards. “They were real fast. That was a little nerve-wracking there, before they announced the winner, but I don’t know what to tell you. Second place is second place. I really wanted to win. Matt did a great job helping me. That was very cool.
“I feel great about how competitive we are,” said Edwards of his team. “If we had not blown up at Atlanta, and if pit strategy had worked differently at Sonoma, and if we’d had gone another 200 yards here tonight, we might have a lot more wins. And that’s just how racing goes. You know, Kyle’s got the trophies and I’ve got all the respect in the world for him, but once the Chase starts, everybody gets to almost start all over again. He’s getting a little bit of a head start with all of these wins on the bonus points, but I feel very good about our team, all of them. We have the potential to be very good in the Chase.”
Following their second place finish at Daytona, Edwards and the No. 99 team continue to hold the fourth position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, 249 markers behind point leader Kyle Busch. The Sprint Cup Series races next at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 12, 2008.
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, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.