BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 23, 2008) – Carl Edwards came into Bristol Motor Speedway as one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR. Having scored wins in two of the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Edwards continued his roll by picking up his first pole of the season for Saturday night’s race. Not content to finish second, Edwards utilized the bump-and-run with 30 laps to go on Saturday night to put his Office Depot Ford to the front of the field, and would hold on to pick up his sixth win of the 2008 season.
Edwards’ Office Depot Ford was fastest in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session, locking the No. 99 team into the 2009 pre-season shootout at Daytona and placing them on the front row for the start of Saturday night’s race at Bristol. As defending champion of the race, Edwards wanted nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of teammate Matt Kenseth as drivers to score consecutive wins in one of the most challenging and coveted races. Edwards pulled away to an early lead once the green flag dropped, and quickly encountered lapped traffic that would slow his progress. As the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya raced Edwards to stay on the lead lap, the early lead that he amassed quickly vanished, allowing the cars of Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch to close in on the lead.
Gordon and Busch were able to overtake Edwards as he attempted to work his way past the No. 42 of Montoya, but the trio would have to contend with slower traffic as they sorted out their running order. Once they cleared Montoya, Edwards reported that his Office Depot Ford was tight in the center and loose off the turns. When the Nos. 84 and 1 cars made contact to bring out the caution flag at lap 96, it allowed Edwards and the rest of the field their chance to come to pit road for adjustments. Crew chief Bob Osborne called Edwards to pit road to take on four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Quick work by the No. 99 team allowed Edwards to line up in the second position for the lap 103 restart.
Edwards continued in the second position behind race leader Kyle Busch for much of the ensuing green flag run. Edwards remained virtually silent over the radio, focusing on running down Busch’s No. 18. As the green flag run continued, Edwards dropped to the fourth position after reporting that he was continuing to fight a tight condition in the center of the corners. As the team began to discuss pit strategy, the No. 20 car made contact with the No. 09 of Sterling Marlin, sending Marlin into the outside wall. The incident brought out the caution flag, allowing the leaders to come to pit road. Edwards came to the attention of the Office Depot crew to take on four tires, fuel and another track bar adjustment. Quick work on pit road gained Edwards one position, allowing the No. 99 to line up in the third position for the lap 206 restart.
Edwards quickly overtook the No. 12 of Ryan Newman on the restart, and once again set his sights on the race leader Kyle Busch. As Edwards began to catch the back of the No. 18, a multi-car wreck occurred in turn one, forcing NASCAR to throw the red flag to clean up the debris. A little over 12 minutes later, the field resumed under green flag conditions and Edwards began chasing down the leader once again.
Edwards and Busch continued to run nose to tail over the course of the following green flag run. As Edwards and Osborne discussed possible pit strategy, NASCAR threw the caution flag for debris at lap 343. Edwards came to the attention of the Office Depot team once again to take on four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to help his handling issues. The crew performed flawlessly and just missed beating Busch’s No. 18 off pit road. When the race went back to green flag conditions at lap 348, Edwards once again found himself in the second position.
As the laps began to wind down, Edwards inched closer and closer to the back bumper of Busch’s No. 18. Edwards was silent on the radio as he stalked the race leader, eventually running him down at lap 470. As the two dove off into the corner, Edwards ever so slightly nudged the rear bumper of the No. 18, sending him up the track and allowing Edwards to overtake him for the lead. Edwards would never look back, as he went on to pick up the win. As Edwards circled the track for his victory lap, Busch followed him and made contact with the left side of the Office Depot Ford, drawing a chorus of boos from the fans. As Busch drove off, Edwards followed suit and returned the favor, sending the No. 18 car spinning on the backstretch. The fans erupted in cheers as Edwards drove off and headed for the frontstretch to perform his trademark victory back flip.
“That’s one of those deals where I couldn’t get by him and I couldn’t get by him and I just had to ask myself, ‘Would he do that to me?,’” said Edwards. “And he has before, so that’s the way it goes. I’m just really proud of my Office Depot guys. That was exciting. I kind of just ran into him. That’s what happened. It’s too bad we tore up the car a little bit after the race, but I guess he wasn’t happy about it and I can understand. But in the back of my mind all I could think about was Richmond in a Nationwide race when he was trying to get through the field and he pile drove me. That’s just the way it is. It’s just racing. I have a lot of respect for the guy and he was real fast, but we can’t give up points when they’re right there for us to take.”
Following their win at Bristol, Edwards and the No. 99 Office Depot team officially clinched a birth in the 2008 Chase. Edwards remains second in points. The Sprint Cup Series races next at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Sunday, August 31, 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.