PHOENIX, AZ. (November 9, 2008) – Carl Edwards earned a fourth-place finish on Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway, leaving the driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford with a mathematical chance at the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship heading into next Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It marks Edwards’ 18th top-five finish of the 2008 season.
Edwards took the green flag from the 15th position, but struggled with a loose handling condition in the opening stages of the race that would limit his ability to pick up positions. An early caution period came at lap 19 when the Nos. 19 and 77 cars got together, allowing Edwards to come to pit road for service. Crew chief Bob Osborne made the call to take on four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. When some of the lead lap drivers elected to stay on the racetrack to maintain their track position, Edwards was shuffled to the 18th position for the lap 24 restart.
Edwards quickly made up for the lost ground, advancing to the 15th position at lap 29. As the field was slowed for an incident involving the No. 83 of Brian Vickers, rain began to fall forcing NASCAR to throw the red flag for 23 minutes while the storm passed. When racing resumed, Edwards began to backslide through the field, again complaining of a loose condition. As the green flag run continued, Edwards began to click off some of the fastest lap times of the field, enabling him to advance to the 12th position by the time the field entered the window for green flag pit stops to begin. Edwards came to the attention of the Office Depot crew at lap 102, taking on four tires, fuel and another wedge adjustment. When the cycle of stops completed, Edwards showed in the 10th position.
As green flag racing continued, Edwards complained that he was loose in and off of the turns, and that he lacked overall grip. Despite the handling issues, Edwards was able to maintain his position on the racetrack. The team radio remained virtually silent as the crew wanted Edwards to focus on doing what he could to improve their track position and keep their championship hopes alive.
When debris was reported on the racetrack, NASCAR elected to throw the caution flag at lap 210. Edwards followed the leaders to pit road, taking on four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Quick work on pit road allowed Edwards to rejoin the field in the seventh position for the lap 218 restart. He would hold the position until lap 261, when debris was once again spotted forcing another caution period.
Edwards came to the attention of the Office Depot crew for the final time at lap 264, taking on four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. A lightning-fast stop gained Edwards three positions, sending him back on track in the fourth position for the lap 266 restart.
Once green flag racing resumed, a multi-car incident occurred at lap 273, forcing a second red flag period to allow track safety crews to clean the racing surface. Edwards continued in the fourth position when racing resumed, and would hold the spot over the closing laps of the race. The race was won by Jimmie Johnson, who extended his point lead to 141 over Edwards heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday.
“The track was real slippery, it was real hard to pass,” said Edwards. “Qualifying, I think, was real important, and we didn’t qualify as well as we could have. But, we had a really good Office Depot Fusion, and maybe if this was a 400 or 500 lap race it’d be different, but that’s what it is.
“I was hoping Jimmie had forgotten how to shift gears or something on those last couple of restarts. Those guys did a good job and we did the best we could. They’re just on it right now. If he would have some real terrible luck in Homestead, we still have a chance at the championship. But, they did their jobs tonight, we did the best we could – it’s just too big of a spread right now.”
“It’s possible, not real probable, but I guarantee that’s not going to change the way we do business, we’re going to go to Homestead with everything we’ve got and be aggressive and try to win the race,” continued Edwards. “Mile-and-half’s have been our best tracks lately, and I just wish we could’ve run a little better here. But, we ran pretty well, we just didn’t have enough time. We kept barely marching forward, my guys did a really good job. Congratulations to Jimmie and those guys. They’re making this really tough.”
Following their fourth-place finish at Phoenix, Edwards and the No. 99 Office Depot team continue to hold the second position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, 141 markers behind point leader Jimmie Johnson. The Sprint Cup Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 16, 2008 for the final race of the season.
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. For more information on any of the Roush Fenway Racing teams, log onto www.RoushFenway.com. For sponsorship inquiries, please contact Robin Johnson at 704.720.4645.