LOUDON, N.H. (September 14, 2008) – Carl Edwards credits crew chief Bob Osborne for turning around what appeared to be a disastrous weekend in the making. Edwards and the No. 99 Office Depot team struggled with an ill-handling Ford Fusion in all three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, but major changes made to the setup on Sunday morning resulted in a third-place finish to open the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Edwards’ finish also ties him with Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup Series point lead.
When showers washed out Friday afternoon’s qualifying session, Edwards and the rest of the Office Depot team breathed a sigh of relief as the field would be set via 2008 owners points. Instead of starting Sunday’s race from the rear of the field as the team expected, the No. 99 Office Depot Ford lined up in the second position. Edwards held the position for the opening laps, but overtook Kyle Busch to assume the race lead at lap four. Edwards checked out from the field, establishing a three second lead before the caution flag was displayed at lap 36. Willing to gamble early, Osborne called Edwards to pit road to take on two tires and fuel. A quick stop allowed Edwards to hold onto the lead when the field resumed green flag racing at lap 40.
As the race continued under green flag conditions, Edwards reported that he had developed a tight condition in the corners. As the laps clicked off, the condition worsened and Edwards began to drop positions, falling to the fifth position before the caution flag was displayed at lap 84. Edwards came down pit road to the attention of the Office Depot crew to take on four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Quick work on pit road gained Edwards two positions, allowing Edwards to line up in the third position for the lap 88 restart.
Edwards continued to struggle with handling issues when the race resumed, complaining of a lack of overall grip. Edwards continued to lose positions, dropping back to the seventh spot before settling in for the long green flag run. As the race continued, Edwards began to feel the front tires chattering as he entered the corners. When the caution flag was displayed for debris at lap 213, Edwards and the rest of the leaders hit pit road for service. The Office Depot crew once again performed flawlessly on pit road, sending Edwards back on track with four tires and fuel in 12.7 seconds.
Edwards restarted in the fourth position, and would hold it until the red flag was displayed at lap 229 for a multi-car incident. Edwards reported during the stoppage that the changes made to his Ford Fusion helped tremendously with grip. Once the race restarted at lap 234, Edwards picked up the third position from Denny Hamlin, and would hold the spot until the checkered flag dropped.
“Man, I feel like we won that thing just because of how terrible we were in practice, and to finish this well and to be tied with Jimmie for the point lead, that’s a huge day for us,” said Edwards. “It was really cool that Greg (Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing teammate) got the win. That’s awesome for him and it was really fun to watch Jimmie and him race. They were fighting hard, that was wild. It was just so hard to pass, I mean, real hard to pass. It’s a huge relief to have finished this race without any issues. My guys did awesome. It’s awesome for Office Depot, Ford, Aflac, everybody. I’m just so surprised with how we ran here today. That’s why it sounds like I’m in Victory Lane here. I’m pumped. It just wasn’t any good in practice. Bob Osborne, he did a great job coming up with a setup – four springs, shocks, track bar, all that stuff. He showed me the sheet this morning and I said, ‘Man, I hope it works,’ and it did.”
Following their third-place finish at New Hampshire, Edwards and the No. 99 team are tied with Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team for the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings. With wins on the season used as a tiebreaker, Edwards’ six victories to Johnson’s four will credit Edwards as the point leader heading into next week’s Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, September 21, 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.