PHOENIX, AZ. (April 12, 2008) – Last fall, it appeared that Carl Edwards had the car to beat at Phoenix International Raceway. Unfortunately, a part failure eliminated him from contention for that win. Fast forward nearly five months, and it appeared once again that Edwards would be a contender for the win. After running inside the top five for the first half of the race, Edwards had one of the fastest cars on the racetrack. However, problems on pit road would put Edwards back in the pack and facing the daunting task of coming from one lap down. Edwards was more than up for the challenge, as he rallied late in the race to finish in the fourth position.
Edwards took the green flag from the third position, and quickly moved up to second by passing the No. 19 of Elliott Sadler on lap two. Edwards began to complain of handling problems, experiencing tightness in the center of the corners and loose off. Edwards traded positions with Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, dropping to the fourth position before working his way back to second when the caution flag was displayed at lap 41 for an incident involving the No. 17 car. When pit road opened, Edwards came with the rest of the leaders to take on four tires, fuel and make a slight air pressure adjustment to improve the handling of his Ford Fusion. Quick work by the Aflac crew sent Edwards back on track in the second position.
Edwards continued in the second position over the next green flag run, reporting that it felt as if the left rear had given up grip. As the laps clicked off, green flag pit stops began for the leaders. Crew chief Robbie Reiser called Edwards to pit road at lap 112 for tires, fuel and another air pressure adjustment. Just as Edwards left pit road, the No. 78 of Joe Nemechek erupted in smoke to bring out the caution flag. Edwards found himself trapped one lap down, and got more bad news when NASCAR penalized the No. 99 team for the front tire changer jumping off the pit wall too soon. Once the leaders completed their service on pit road, NASCAR officials ordered Edwards to the tail end of the longest line as a penalty for their pit road issue. Edwards went from second to the 34th position, one lap down to the leaders for the lap 120 restart.
Once the green flag dropped for the restart, Edwards quickly began to work his way through traffic. With several cars trapped one lap down, Edwards would have to work his way to the front of the race for the lucky dog free pass to get back on the lead lap if he was to contend for the race win. Edwards’ Aflac Ford began turning the fastest lap times on the racetrack as Edwards worked his way into position for the lucky dog. His progress came to a quick stop at lap 133 when the No. 12 of polesitter Ryan Newman blew an engine and left oil in the groove of the racetrack. NASCAR was forced to throw the red flag, stopping the race so the track surface could be cleaned.
Once the race restarted, Edwards continued his move towards the front of the lap down cars. At lap 161, Edwards passed Brian Vickers for the 22nd spot, and put himself in position for the free pass should the caution flag come out. Just as Edwards completed the pass, he got the break he needed as the caution flag came out for the No. 19 car of Elliott Sadler. Edwards was awarded the free pass, putting the Aflac Ford back on the lead lap.
When green flag racing resumed at lap 166, Edwards showed in the 20th position. He wasted little time in working his way back to the front of the field, advancing to the 11th position at lap 195. The No. 6 car spun at lap 199 to bring out the caution flag, which allowed the leaders to come to pit road for service. Edwards came to pit road with them, electing to take on four tires and fuel. The right rear tire got away from the Aflac crew on the stop, costing Edwards extra time on pit road. He would rejoin the field in the 16th position, but assured his crew that they would overcome the problem.
Edwards began his climb towards the front once again, passing four cars in 20 laps to advance to the 12th position. Just as Edwards overtook the No. 9 car of Kasey Kahne for the 12th spot, Kahne blew a right front tire and made heavy contact with the outside wall. The caution flag was displayed, giving everyone the chance to come to pit road for service. Edwards came to pit road, taking on four tires and fuel. Happy with the handling of his No. 99, Edwards requested no changes be made to the Aflac Fusion. The crew performed their service flawlessly, sending Edwards back on track in the 12th position for the lap 232 restart.
Edwards was silent on the radio over the ensuing green flag run, methodically picking off positions as the laps wound down. At lap 292, Edwards worked his way around the No. 29 car for the fifth position. Shortly after he completed the pass, Reiser informed Edwards that they would be short on fuel to make it to the finish. They would have to come to pit road for a splash of fuel with most of the leaders to make it to the checkered flag. As Edwards monitored the fuel pressure, Reiser called him to pit road at lap 304 for a splash of fuel. Edwards rejoined the field in the fourth position, where he would take the checkered flag seven laps later.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever passed that many cars at a race track ever,” said Edwards. “Our Aflac Ford Fusion was really good. We just got some setbacks there. It was an adventure to say the least. We passed a lot of cars and had a problem in the pits, we got a penalty. We came back quickly, though. Everything fell into place, Robbie made some great calls, but then we had another bad pit stop, and that set us back. But to come out of here fourth with all the trouble we had tonight, that’s a blessing. I’m not going to complain too much about that.”
Following their fourth place finish at Phoenix, Edwards and the No. 99 Aflac team continue to hold the ninth position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, 174 markers behind point leader Jeff Burton. The Sprint Cup Series races next at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 27, 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.