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Carl Edwards wins another one in Phoenix

Hamlin 12th after dominating, points race tightens
Sunday, November 14, 2010

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Carl Edwards sets up Denny Hamlin
Jimmie Johnson didn’t have the fastest car in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway — at the end of the day, race winner and polesitter Carl Edwards did.

Johnson, the four-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, didn’t lead a lap. Denny Hamlin, ahead in the points and seeking his first title, led a race-high 190 laps.

Ultimately, none of that mattered. Short on fuel at the end of a race he had dominated, Hamlin short-pitted with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch on Lap 298 of 312, while Edwards, Johnson and Kevin Harvick were conserving fuel after pit stops under caution on Lap 224.

All three won their gambles, and Hamlin, who finished 12th, saw his lead over second-place Johnson shrink from 33 points to 15 entering next Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick is third in the standings, 46 points behind Hamlin.

Edwards crossed the finish line 4.77 seconds ahead of runner-up Ryan Newman to break a winless streak of 70 races, dating to Homestead in November 2008. Edwards squeezed 88 laps out of his last tank of gas to win for the 17th time in his career, completing a sweep of a weekend that also included a victory in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.

Joey Logano and Greg Biffle, finished third and fourth, respectively, followed by Johnson and Harvick. Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray completed the top 10.

“Everybody made it on fuel — is that what you’re telling me?” Hamlin radioed to crew chief Mike Ford after learning he had finished 12th.

“Good job today, man,” Ford replied. “I know that was ugly. That’s something we’ve got to work on.”

“What do we have to work on?” Hamlin asked.

“Mileage was awful,” Ford told him.

Indeed it was. Ford told Hamlin he was 12 laps short on fuel after the pit stop on Lap 224. Contrast that to Edwards, who raced Hamlin hard and passed him for the lead on Lap 266 and made it to the end of the race despite conserving fuel for only half of the last green-flag run.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what our status was,” Edwards said. “I don’t think (crew chief) Bob (Osborne) wanted to say it over the radio, or he just didn’t want to tell me, but I didn’t know what was going on. I thought we were 12 (laps) short, and the caution came out (on Lap 234), so I thought we were maybe six short or something like that.

“So when they dropped the green (on Lap 240), I started racing pretty hard, and I felt like I was a little faster than Denny, but then I realized, ‘Maybe he’s saving a little fuel, so I better save some.’ So I was saving. And then Kyle was falling back even farther behind me, and I thought, ‘OK, these guys are all saving fuel,’ and then Bob started telling me lap times, so I thought, ‘Why is he telling me lap times? Maybe he wants me to race here.’

“We had to establish the fact that he wanted me to race them, so that’s when I drove by Denny. … I only saved fuel for about half of that last run.”

Even as he was in gas-conservation mode inside his car, Johnson recognized the magnitude of his gamble. Failure meant the end to his hopes for a fifth title.

“If we ran out, yeah, we would have lost the chance to be the champions,” Johnson said. “But that kind of left my mind, and I really started focusing on what I needed to do to save gas. Really tried to eliminate my thoughts, any negative thoughts in my mind. Just save fuel … what I needed to do on the racetrack to save fuel.

“Before I knew it, the laps went by pretty quick. Worked themselves down to the white flag. Once I came off of Turn 2 and down the back, I felt pretty good I’d make it to the start/finish line ahead of the 11 (Hamlin).

“My emotions tried to get the best of me. I was on the edge of my seat, but I kept talking myself off the ledge.”

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 190/5 312 Running
2 19 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army Veterans Day Tribute 170/0 312 Running
3 10 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 165/0 312 Running
4 4 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M Scotch Brand 160/0 312 Running
5 21 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 155/0 312 Running
6 29 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 150/0 312 Running
7 15 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Valvoline 151/5 312 Running
8 28 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 142/0 312 Running
9 3 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 143/5 312 Running
10 5 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 134/0 312 Running
11 22 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 130/0 312 Running
12 17 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 137/10 312 Running
13 7 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 129/5 312 Running
14 31 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew "Paint the 88" / National Guard 121/0 312 Running
15 11 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 118/0 312 Running
16 35 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 115/0 312 Running
17 20 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Old Spice / Office Depot 112/0 312 Running
18 2 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Insignia HDTV / Best Buy 109/0 312 Running
19 40 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 106/0 312 Running
20 26 09 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet C&J Energy 108/5 312 Running
21 14 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 100/0 312 Running
22 13 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Little Debbie / Safeway 97/0 312 Running
23 8 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 94/0 312 Running
24 24 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 91/0 312 Running
25 12 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 88/0 310 Running
26 6 00 David Reutimann Toyota Tums 85/0 310 Running
27 9 9 Aric Almirola Ford Budweiser 82/0 310 Running
28 23 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Paralyzed Veterans of America 79/0 310 Running
29 18 98 Paul Menard Ford Peak / Menards 76/0 310 Running
30 25 83 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 73/0 310 Running
31 33 26 J.J. Yeley Ford Air National Guard 70/0 309 Running
32 16 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 67/0 309 Running
33 34 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Polaris 64/0 308 Running
34 38 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 61/0 308 Running
35 27 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 58/0 307 Running
36 42 34 Tony Raines Ford A&W All American Food 55/0 306 Running
37 32 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 52/0 306 Running
38 37 37 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 49/0 274 In Pit
39 36 55 Mike Bliss Toyota Prism Motorsports 46/0 193 In Pit
40 39 164 Landon Cassill Toyota Empire Steel Buildings 43/0 191 In Pit
41 43 81 Terry Labonte Dodge Red Line Oil 40/0 190 Out of Race
42 30 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 37/0 58 In Pit
43 41 71 Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet South Point Hotel & Casino 34/0 1 In Pit

* Denotes Rookie

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