HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 16, 2008) – Carl Edwards scored his ninth win of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday evening. The driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford closed out the 2008 season as the leader in race wins, top-five and top-10 finishes. It was a bittersweet win for Edwards, who would finish 69 point behind Jimmie Johnson in the championship battle. It also marked the end of an era for Edwards and sponsor Office Depot, who part ways following the conclusion of the season.
Edwards entered Sunday’s race on the heels of a win in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series finale. He took the green flag for the Ford 400 from the fourth position, but quickly advanced to the second position, running behind teammate Matt Kenseth. On lap 13, Edwards was able to get by Kenseth for the race lead, picking up five bonus points for leading a lap. Edwards and Kenseth battled back and forth for the lead, with Edwards prevailing. As the opening green flag run continued, Edwards reported that he was fighting a loose condition. As the field continued under green flag conditions, the leaders began to come to pit road for a cycle of green flag pit stops. Edwards gave up the lead at lap 51 to take on four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. When the cycle of stops completed at lap 54, the Office Depot Ford once again showed the way.
Edwards continued to hold the race lead, but as the sun went down he reported to the crew that he now felt as if he had developed a tight condition in the center of the turns. The handling characteristics would continue to change as nightfall began to settle in, resulting in changes to the track surface. Edwards came to pit road under green flag conditions again at lap 128, taking on four tires, fuel and another wedge adjustment. Edwards had established such a substantial lead that he never surrendered the position over the course of the pit cycle.
The caution flag was displayed at lap 156 when the No. 47 car made heavy contact with the outside wall. Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne agreed to come to pit road, taking on four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Some of the leaders elected to stay on the racetrack while others opted to take on only two tires, resulting in Edwards being shuffled back to the sixth position for the lap 173 restart. Edwards slowly worked his way through the traffic, but was unable to pull away as he had done earlier.
As the race entered the final stages, Osborne ordered Edwards to start conserving fuel. Willing to make a gamble on fuel mileage, Edwards agreed. Osborne called out lap times that he wanted Edwards to run, slowing him down to save enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. As the leaders began to run out of fuel or come to pit road for a splash of gas, Edwards inherited the race lead from Kenseth with just three laps to go. With a 15-second lead over second place, Edwards backed off the throttle and appeared to be barely moving as he did what he could to make it to the checkered flag. On the fourth turn of the final lap, Edwards reported that he was out of fuel. Fortunately he kept enough momentum to make it to the checkered flag, 7.5 seconds before runner-up Kevin Harvick.
Edwards and the Office Depot team knew they’d have to lead the most laps and win the race to capitalize on any trouble that point leader Jimmie Johnson may encounter in Sunday’s race. The team did what they needed to do, but Johnson crossed the finish line in the 15th-position, allowing him to claim his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship by 69 markers over Edwards.
“Bob was telling me to go slower than I was going and I just new Matt was gonna make it, so I was really nervous that Matt was gonna make it and he was gonna be in front of me, so I went a little faster than I should have, and when Matt ran out with three to go I thought, ‘Man, I have screwed this up big-time. This is bad,’ said Edwards of the closing laps of the race. “So it made me really nervous and I’m glad we’re getting good fuel mileage.
“I’m sure glad we won today’s race because it will make it a little bit easier to deal with the off-season and coming so close to that championship,” Edwards continued. “We ran really well this season and it’s something I want to make sure my guys understand is they did their jobs. They did a great job and there were two races where we lost points. One was my mistake and one was a complete coincidence or freak accident with the ignition system, so my guys performed well enough to win a championship this season, and considering how well Jimmie performed, I don’t think that’s a small feat. So tonight was a lot of fun. I’m glad that we won the race so that we can go into the off-season knowing we won more races than anyone else in this series. I think that’s a big accomplishment, especially considering how well Jimmie and Kyle both ran all season, so that feels good and knowing how well we ran. That gives me a lot of confidence for next season, so it was a good weekend. I’m proud of what we did this year.
“It’s a little bittersweet to win the final race with Office Depot, but I think this is a great way to end it,” he continued. “Office Depot came on board when really me and what I was gonna do or what we were gonna do with that 99 team, there was no guarantee that we were gonna go out and run as well as we did. It’s been great to be a representative for them. They do a lot in the communities. I’m excited that they’re staying in the sport. I think Tony will do a great job for them and it’ll be neat to race against that Office Depot car next year.”
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.