HAMPTON, Ga. (March 9, 2008) – Carl Edwards headed to Atlanta Motor Speedway on the heels of a controversial week following his No. 99 team’s victory at Las Vegas and subsequent penalties that resulted from the oil tank cover becoming dislodged during the race. Edwards had the perfect race going on Sunday to quiet his naysayers, as he had one of the fastest cars in the field for the majority of the race. However, just 51 laps from the finish, Edwards suffered a mechanical failure in the engine of his No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion that would relegate him to a 42nd-place finish.
Edwards started in the fourth position, and held it for the opening 14 laps. After passing the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon at lap 15, Edwards set his sights on the leaders. Edwards reported that his Aflac Ford was loose, but he was still able to close in on second-place Kyle Busch. Edwards' progress was halted when the first caution of the event came out at lap 37 for debris. Edwards followed the leaders down pit road for tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment to help the handling of his No. 99. Quick work by his crew allowed Edwards to rejoin the field in the third position for the lap 42 restart.
Edwards reported early in the run that he continued to fight a loose condition. Despite his handling problems, Edwards managed to work his way around the No. 88 car for second place at lap 71. Edwards’ forward progress slowly came to an end, as he dropped back to the fourth position at lap 82. When the caution flag was displayed at lap 85 for debris, Edwards got the break he needed to come to pit road for service. Interim crew chief Chris Andrews made the call to take on tires, fuel, wedge and track bar adjustments to help tighten up Edwards’ Ford. With the leaders on different pit strategies, Edwards rejoined the field in the seventh position for the lap 89 restart.
Edwards held the seventh spot until he worked his way around the No. 24 once again at lap 109 to assume the sixth position. When the No. 9 of Kasey Kahne spun at lap 115 to bring out the caution flag once again, it allowed Edwards to come to pit road for service. In another attempt to tighten up the Aflac Fusion, Andrews elected to change four tires, add fuel and make another track bar adjustment. With varying strategies once again playing out on pit road, Edwards lined up behind the cars that only took two tires and spent less time on pit road, taking the green flag in the 11th position.
Edwards complained that the changes made to his No. 99 did not help his handling situation. Regardless, Edwards was able to mount a charge towards the front of the field. As the laps clicked off, Edwards worked his way inside the top 10, running as high as the fourth position at lap 153. Edwards and crew discussed adjustments to help correct the loose condition as green flag pit stops neared. When it came time for the No. 99 to hit pit road, Edwards assumed the race lead. He would give up the position to come to the attention of the Aflac crew, taking on four tires, fuel and another track bar adjustment. When the field cycled through their stops, Edwards found himself in the fifth position.
Edwards began to slowly creep his way back towards the front of the field, overtaking the Nos. 24 and 29 to assume the third position in the running order. Edwards began to record the fastest time of the cars running inside the top 10, and used his speed to run down second place Clint Bowyer. Edwards overtook Bowyer at lap 210 for the second position.
Things seemed to be going Edwards’ way as he began to pull away from the rest of the field, until spotter Jason Hedlesky reported to the crew that he saw smoke trailing from the rear end of Edwards’ Aflac Ford. NASCAR officials black flagged the No. 99 car, forcing them to pit road to find the source of the smoke. As Edwards entered pit road, the engine in his Fusion erupted is smoke, eliminating them from contention for the race win.
“You never know how things are going to turn out, but I thought we were going to win this race,” said Edwards. “I was just riding. I don’t know what happened, but the oil tank lid was still on. I just appreciate my fans for sticking with us this week. It’s been a long week with a lot of stuff said, but I think we showed them here today, other than something coming apart in the engine, I believe we had the car that was the class of the field.”
Following their 42nd-place finish at Atlanta, Edwards and the No. 99 Aflac team hold the 17th position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, 232 markers behind point leader Kyle Busch. The Sprint Cup Series races next at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 16, 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, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.