CONCORD, N.C. (May 17, 2008) – Carl Edwards and the Office Depot No. 99 team overcame a poor qualifying effort to lead the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge at the halfway point, but faded in the final two segments to finish in the 10th position at the conclusion of the event. Edwards felt the set of tires the No. 99 team had in the second half may have been to blame for his struggle, but the driver of the Office Depot Ford felt upbeat about his team’s chances in next week’s Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Edwards quickly improved on his 19th-place starting position at the drop of the green flag in segment one on Saturday night, advancing to the 15th position at the completion of the first lap. Edwards radioed his Office Depot crew at lap 11, reporting that he was fighting a tight condition at both ends of the racetrack. Despite his Ford Fusion not handling to his liking, Edwards moved up to the 12th position in the final laps of the first segment.
With a caution period before the start of segment two, everyone took the opportunity to come to pit road for adjustments. Crew chief Bob Osborne elected to take on fuel, a wedge adjustment and right side tires only in an effort to gain track position. The gamble worked as Edwards lined up in the fifth position for segment two.
Edwards quickly worked his way around the cars of Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Ryan Newman to advance to the second position. As each lap clicked off, Edwards drew closer to chasing down the race leader Kyle Busch. At lap 37, Edwards asked his crew if Busch’s No. 18 may have been experiencing engine issues, as he could hear something sounding amiss. Busch began to slow on the track, allowing Edwards to overtake him for the lead at lap 39. Edwards held the top spot for the remaining 11 laps, taking the win in his Office Depot Ford in segment two.
With a 10 minute break before the start of the third segment, Edwards came to pit road to take on four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The team took their time on the stop, ensuring they’d packed their Office Depot Ford full of fuel and tightened all the lug nuts. With the finishing positions at the end of segment two determining the starting lineup for segment three, Edwards’ No. 99 would start from the first position.
When the green flag dropped to get the third segment underway, Edwards’ No. 99 quickly began to backslide. He had fallen to the sixth position at lap 54 when he reported to the crew that he was loose off the turns. Edwards’ handling issues continued in the closing laps, as he dropped to the eighth position at the conclusion of segment three.
With an opportunity to come to pit road before the start of the fourth segment, Edwards peeled off the racetrack to the attention of his Office Depot crew one final time. Osborne elected to duplicate the stop from segment one, taking on right side tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to try and gain track position. With many of the leaders using the same strategy, Edwards found himself in the seventh position for the beginning of the fourth and final segment of the night.
Edwards remained silent on the radio as he battled teammate Matt Kenseth for the sixth position on the restart. Kenseth took the position, leaving Edwards battling Mark Martin for the eighth spot. Martin overtook Edwards for the position, and shortly thereafter Edwards lost positions to Tony Stewart and Earnhardt, Jr. Edwards brought the Office Depot Ford home in the 10th position, clearly disappointed about what could have been.
On Friday before the All-Star festivities got underway, Edwards helped Office Depot and Harlequin unveil the winning marriage proposal that appeared on the tv panel on the back of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford during Saturday night’s race.
“I thought we were the car to beat,” said Edwards. “I thought we were gonna be great there (in the second half). I was already thinking about what I was gonna do with all the money, having a good time, but something with that last set of tires on that last run, it was just off. I couldn’t go any faster. That’s that. That’s racing. Congrats to Kasey (Kahne, race winner), he did a great job.
“I’m telling you, next week is gonna be a marathon,” Edwards continued. “There are gonna be guys coming and going and people figuring it out and it’s gonna be about timing and hitting it right on the last run. If we would have run in the last run like we did the second one, we were spectacular fast, so we just have to figure out how to do that the last run of the Coke 600.”
The Sprint Cup Series races next at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night, May 25, 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 and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.