NASCAR: Edwards rolls
Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2011
CONCORD — The race was billed as a throwback to the Wild West, and track officials practically promised scores would be settled in the $1 million Sprint All-Star Race.
Only the knock ‘em down action never came, and the only fireworks were those in Saturday night’s post-race show at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The only drama came after Carl Edwards took the checkered flag during his celebratory slide through the grass.
Although he appeared to hit either a manhole cover or a drainage device, his car instead seemed only to dip hard into the grass — contact that crumpled the front of his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
After his trademark celebratory backflip, Edwards needed a tow truck to take him to Victory Lane. He left behind a deep rut in Charlotte’s infield grass.
“You never know what comes from misfortunes and it was definitely unfortunate,” Edwards said. “Pretty wild twist of fate that we tore it up, but I’m going to have faith something good will come from it.”
Edwards had a sheepish grin as he climbed out his window for his customary celebratory backflip, and he apologized to crew chief Bob Osborne for wrecking the car.
“That’s a million dollars. We just won a million dollars,” Edwards said from Victory Lane. “I feel so bad about tearing up the car. But I’m sure Bob’s got a better one.”
Edwards won three of the four segments in the 100-lap race, but still had one last pit stop and a 10-lap sprint to the finish before he could claim his first All-Star victory. NASCAR brought the field in for a 10-minute break following the third segment, then sent the cars back to the track for parade laps before they were required to return to pit road for a four-tire stop.
The stop is where the pit crews have their chance to shine in this event, and Edwards’ team delivered. He came in as the leader and left as the leader, beating Busch back onto the track.
Edwards then got a terrific jump on the restart and easily pulled away.
“As far as he jumped out on me really surprised me,” Busch said. “He took off so far, I was like ‘Damn, there ain’t no way I am going to be able to run him down in this short period of time.’”
Edwards praised his Roush-Yates engine for the speed he had throughout the race, and for the restart that helped him pull away from Busch.
“The restart was good, and man, that thing, it really runs,” Edwards said.
Busch, who has a history of wrecking cars capable of winning the All-Star race, settled for second in a Toyota and will bring the car back next week as his backup for the Coca-Cola 600.
“Considering our fleet has been getting a little bit low, this is pretty good,” Busch said of his second-place finish. “I didn’t put a scratch on it. It was a good one.”
Edwards had little time to celebrate. He was off after the race to catch a flight to Iowa to run the Nationwide Series race on Sunday.
“I really can’t wait to go,” he said. “The most enjoyable thing I can do is go race another car.”
Most everyone else will have to wait for next week’s Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the NASCAR season. The All-Star race is usually the warm-up act for the 600, and the final 10 laps of Saturday night have always been billed as a wild, dash for the cash.
But the excitement never came, as the drivers raced clean and caution free.
“This was a pretty tame night, at least from the All-Star perspective,” Tony Stewart said.
David Reutimann was third in a Toyota and followed by Stewart, who celebrated his 40th birthday a day earlier.
Greg Biffle was fifth, Matt Kenseth was sixth and RFR teammate David Ragan was eighth to put all four of the team’s car inside the top eight. Ragan won the Sprint Showdown qualifier earlier Saturday to earn his spot in the field.
Denny Hamlin was seventh. Kevin Harvick was ninth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10.
Kurt Busch’s struggles continued Saturday night and he sounded despondent over his team’s performance for much of the event. He finished 13th.
His teammate, Brad Keselowski, finished 18th after moving into the All-Star race with a second-place finish in the qualifier.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., made his way into the race by winning the fan vote that puts a third driver from the Sprint Showdown into the main event. But he had nothing for the contenders in the All-Star race and finished 14th.