FONTANA, Cali. (Feb. 25, 2008) – Almost 24 hours after the Auto Club 500 was originally scheduled to start, Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Dish Network Ford celebrated in victory lane at the newly named Auto Club Speedway. Edwards and the No. 99 crew earned their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the 2008 season after leading five times for 64 laps, turning 72 of the race’s fastest laps and dominating the final laps of competition.
The weekend was mired by rain delays, postponements and cancellations. Then the race that started on Sunday was red-flagged twice and ultimately postponed to Monday. Finally at 10:00 a.m., PST on Monday, Edwards and the No. 99 crew took to the track to complete the running of the Auto Club 500.
The race finally re-started on Monday on lap 87 and Edwards was scored in the ninth position. Quickly he began to pick off the competition and work his was up through the field. When Edwards made the first pit stop of the day on lap 124, he was leading the race.
Though he reported that his Dish Network Ford was “a little free off,” Edwards was seemingly happy with the handling of his Fusion and only minor adjustments were prescribed by crew chief Bob Osborne during the stop. Four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment were quickly performed by the No. 99 pit crew and Edwards was rolling again. When the field cycled through on lap 126, Edwards was scored in fifth place and among the fastest cars on the track.
Three cautions flags stalled the race over the next 40 laps – on laps 134, 150 and 167. Each time Osborne directed Edwards to pit road so that the Dish Network team could continue to tweak on the No. 99. On each stop, the No. 99 received four fresh Goodyear tires, Sunoco fuel and minor air pressure adjustments. The efforts of the Dish Network crew paid off as Edwards was able to maintain the fastest lap times on the track and even lead from lap 180 to lap 220.
A caution on lap 220 set the stage for the final pit stop for the No. 99 team. Four tires and an air pressure adjustment and Edwards rejoined the race in fourth place, when green flag racing commenced with just 26 laps remaining in competition.
Edwards, focused and determined, charted his path to the front and began picking off the competition. First, Jeff Gordon on lap 233, then Jimmie Johnson on lap 238. From that point on, it was Edwards’ race. In dominating fashion Edwards pulled away from the pack and took the checkers on lap 250, capturing his eighth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Johnson finished second, followed by Gordon. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.
Up next for Edwards and the No. 99 Dish Network crew is the UAW Daimler Chrysler 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. FOX television and PRN radio affiliates will carry the live broadcast beginning at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 1.
Carl Edwards at California:
• Carl Edwards’ victory at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California was the eighth of his career, and first of the season.
• In eight career Sprint Cup starts at California, Edwards has seven top-six finishes.
• Ford has now won 585 all-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races.
• Ford has now won nine times, more than any other manufacturer, in 16 Sprint Cup races at California.
• The win is Fusion’s first of the season and 15th all-time since its debut in 2006. Fusion’s first-ever NNC victory was by Matt Kenseth in February 2006 at California Speedway.
Auto Club 500 Quotes:
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Dish Network Ford Fusion (Winner)
“I’m very proud to be driving that Ford Fusion today. Ford and Roush Fenway and all the engineers, everyone has worked really hard. All of them have worked very hard this winter and it’s paid off. This is the reason we won this race today, because of the preparations. I’m proud to be driving that car right now. It’s a lot of fun.”
“I feel like this win gives us a lot of hope for this season. We have worked very hard. I owe a lot – I owe all of it to Jack, the engineers and Robbie Reiser and Bob [Osborne]. I hope this is a sign of how our season is going to go. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned is that we’ve got to stay on top of it. We’ve got to keep working just as hard as we have. There are very minor differences between the cars that are winning these races and the cars that are running fifth or sixth. We’ve got to just keep on top of it. It’s a great way to start and I hope it keeps going like this.”
BOB OSBORNE – crew chief, No. 99 Dish Network Ford Fusion
“I felt track position was a big factor in how well you went around the race track, obviously. You start ninth, 10th in that place, you think in the back of your mind that you’ll be okay, but it was hard passing cars today, and there is a distinct speed difference from the first three cars to the rest of the field last night and all day today. So, track position was very important and we struggled with that a little bit today, and that’s something that we’ve got to work on in the future to be one of the top teams.”
“The fact that we started at night and finished today really was a benefit to our race package. With not having a lot of practice this weekend and all the practice that we did have was under cloud cover for the most part, we really had to fall back on our test notes and make decisions based from our test, which was run in the sun, and we really didn’t intend to race yesterday at all. I was surprised when we got on track, based on the weather forecast on Saturday when we had to make all of our decisions. So, I was planning on racing today, really, in the sun and a little bit more heat than yesterday. I was happy to see that the car performed fairly well last night in the cloud cover, but, you’re right, I believe it performed better today than it did yesterday.”
Edwards’ Auto Club 500 Results:
Points: 190 *5
Laps in top-15: 240
Fastest Laps: 72
Edwards’ 2008 Cumulative Record:
Races: 2 of 36
Points: 296 (-39 behind leader)
Top 5s: One
Top 10s: One
Top 15s: One
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 and Joey Clanton; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.