Daytona Beach, FLA. (July 4, 2009) – A late afternoon shower cancelled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying on Friday, so for the second time in as many weeks the field was set according to points. Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Subway/Aflac Ford Fusion, started Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 from fifth position. Edwards' Ford was ranked 29th in both of Thursday's practice sessions, despite the standings; Edwards reported that his No. 99 handled well. With little tire wear and positive driver feedback team 99 was confident heading into the race. However, just 11 laps into the 160-lap event Edwards reported that his tires were feeling worn and two laps later a caution was thrown due to a cut tire from another competitor. From that point forward the race would be one of tire conservation and caution. Edwards took care of his No. 99 for the remainder of the race, in spite of several worn tires throughout the night. In the closing laps, Edwards avoided a major crash that took out race leader, Kyle Busch to finish in fourth place.
Said Edwards. “Tonight was great. I’ve got to thank Subway and all of the folks that supported us – Aflac, Ford. That last sprint to the finish, I was really concerned about Kyle. I saw the right side of his car lift off the ground, he hit the fence. Man, that’s a hard hit. But, I guess, it’s exciting. The fans were all pumped up about it, but I was real nervous for him. I’m just glad we got through there and nobody hit him – I hope nobody hit him a second time. It was just a wild event.”
Eight cautions stalled Saturday night’s race with blown tires being the culprit. Though Edwards didn’t fall victim to the tire issues, there was concern in the No. 99 pit stall on several occasions that Edwards narrowly escaped what could have been a disastrous situation.
Opting to err on the side of caution, Edwards settled into a top-10 running position for the majority of the night. The plan paid off and Edwards was running seventh on the race’s final restart with just four laps remaining in the race.
Knowing the final laps would be crazy; Edwards gave himself plenty of room to avoid trouble and this strategy worked. Kyle Busch passed Tony Stewart for the lead just before the last lap, but the Stewart chased Busch down and closed in on his bumper. Slight contact sent Busch drifting up the track, but he slid back down to maintain his lead. As he tried to block Stewart's passing attempt, Stewart hooked the left bumper to send Busch sailing into the wall. It triggered a multi-car crash behind them. Edwards made it through the mess unscathed.
Stewart went on to win the race, Jimmie Johnson was second. Denny Hamlin, Edwards and Kurt Busch completed the top five. Despite the strong finish for Edwards and the No. 99 Subway/Aflac crew, the team remains in fifth position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, 402 markers behind points leader Tony Stewart. The Sprint Cup Series races next at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 11. TNT television and MRN radio affiliates will carry the live broadcast of the LifeLock 400 beginning at 6:30 p.m. (EST).
“Goodyear almost brought the perfect tire,” Edwards said following the race. “It was really great last night; tonight, it’s coming apart a little bit, a little bit too much heat, but they were real close with the tire. If they can get that right to where the tires give up like that and we can start racing and slide-jobbin’ – that’s fun. I really had a good time tonight – other than the tires blowing out, it was perfect.”
Edwards continued. “It was all right. My Subway guys did a really good job. I want to thank all of those guys – there’s a bunch of Subway folks here, and a great group of Aflac folks, and, man, I would’ve loved to win for Ford Motor Company, but, man, that was a wild finish. I saw the 18 car turn right, the right-side tires lifted off the ground and he hit the fence, and I thought, ‘Ah, man.’ I just yanked the wheel left and drove the grass and hoped I didn’t hit him. But, it was a crazy, crazy finish. I thought I wanted to be up there racing with those guys, then I saw that and I was just fine with where I was at.”