Edwards wins in Phoenix and closes on Bowyer
Second in the standings, Edwards trimmed Bowyer's lead from 91 points to 56, on a day that could have been much worse for the driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet.
Denny Hamlin, who came to the pits for new tires before a green-white-checkered-flag restart that took the event one lap past its scheduled distance of 200 laps, charged from fifth to second in the final two laps. Kevin Harvick finished third, followed by Bowyer, Kyle Busch and rookie Landon Cassill.
Quick work in the pits under caution got Edwards out ahead of Harvick for a restart on Lap 130, and the defending series champion held the top spot the rest of the way. Harvick surrendered the second position to Hamlin and his fresh tires in Turn 3 of the final lap.
The series moves to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season finale next Saturday.
"We couldn't be going to a better racetrack," Edwards said. "I like the fact that you can run at the bottom or the top. I'm sure (crew chief) Drew (Blickensderfer) will bring the best car we have. I just hope it's fast enough."
Bowyer appeared headed for disaster on Lap 79, when the field was bunched coming to the line for a restart after the sixth caution of the race.
"I thought we were done," Bowyer said. "We got all bottled up there. The 88 (Brad Keselowski) ran into me, and I drove through the 6 (David Ragan)."
The impact damaged the nose of Bowyer's Chevy, and after a series of pit stops to tape the front end, Bowyer fell to the back of the pack. After another quick caution on Lap 85, Bowyer restarted 24th and spent the rest of the race working his way forward.
"It was a roller coaster, for sure," he said. "But I'm really proud of our guys. They didn't give up. I thought our championship run was done right there. The car was really tight after that, and we had to pull all the tape off. But it was a good run for us -- really proud."
Even though he knew Bowyer's car was damaged, Edwards wasn't about to relax. He had watched the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday night, in which title contenders Ron Hornaday Jr. and Johnny Benson both suffered a litany of problems.
"I thought, sure enough, as soon as I start relaxing and counting points, something would happen to us," he said. "They did a good job of recovering. Anytime you can have any damage and fight back and finish fourth, that's a good outcome."
Notes: Joey Logano's No. 20 Toyota slammed the inside wall on the frontstretch coming to the white flag, but Logano salvaged a 10th-place finish to keep the Joe Gibbs car 28 points ahead of the No. 2 Chevy Bowyer drives for Richard Childress in the race for the owners' title… Brian Ickler started 34th and finished 34th in his Nationwide Series debut.
• Carl Edwards captured his 19th NASCAR Nationwide Series victory and second at Phoenix International Raceway
• The Phoenix International Raceway win was the eighth for Ford in 2008
• This is Edwards’ sixth victory of 2008
• Ford has now won seven of the 13 NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Phoenix International Raceway
• Ford has now won 160 NASCAR Nationwide Series races
• Edwards remains second in NASCAR Nationwide Series points with three races remaining. He trails Clint Bowyer by 56 points.
• This is the 97th win for team owner Jack Roush. He is the winningest owner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
EDWARDS, BLICKENSDERFER AND ROUSH PRESS CONFERENCE
DREW BLICKENSDERFER – No. 60 crew chief – YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT SOME OF THE CLASS YOU MADE ON THE PIT BOX. “The first two were real easy. We’d gone long enough on fuel where we need to come and get four tires and fuel. They were pretty easy, little adjustments on the race car. The third one was real typical and we did another set of tires there. Waiting for a caution, I think, I had 180 written down on my board and I said 180 was my decision maker time. I showed to Jack and he kind of gave me a shrug, like, “Have fun with that call.” I asked Carl, he kind of said the same thing to me. With five to go when the caution came out, we were in a tough spot leading the race. I was pretty sure we were the fastest car on the race track at that time, so the guys behind us were going to have hard time beating us on the same tires. So, the guys that weren’t racing for points probably could come in and take a chance and that’s what they did. Green-white-checkered, we got fortunate enough with that and held off by a half a car.”
CARL EDWARDS – No. 60 World Financial Group Ford Fusion – (finished 1st, qualified 2nd) –
THOUGHTS ON NOT ONLY WINNING TODAY’S RACE, BUT I KNOW YOU’VE GOT YOUR EYE ON THE BACK-TO-BACK CHAMPIONSHIP. “Yeah, for sure. If we run like we’ve been running and we perform as well as we have and Drew makes the decisions that he’s been making, we can close 56 points without Clint having trouble. They just have to have a little bit of an off day. We needed this today. We need to win this race. We need lead the most laps. I’m really proud of how my guys performed. They made up for any of the bad stops with that last one, so that was good. [It was] definitely a good day; a fun race. I like this race track a lot. Some of the best races that I’ve had have been here and I enjoy it.”
JACK ROUSH – No. 60 team owner – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE FINAL RACES OF THE SEASON? “I’m in the presence of fast people again. I enjoy the presence of the guys and the girls that put this race team together. They keep it working. Drew came on the scene with Carl about a third of the way into the season and rebuild the thing for strength to bring some fresh ideas. Today the unsung heroes were for sure the pit crew who got Carl out first there. He had a fast enough car and he was able to hang on to it. But it is hard to pass here. I heard Carl comment to the track manager, “Don’t ever repave this race track.” A surface that is worn done like this where you slid around on something gives a driver a chance to do his business. Drew was on his game with his tire pressure and they made just a little tweak on the pit stop. The pit stops the last time, I think, that he actually didn’t make a change but had one little change before and it all came together. But Carl was the man of the hour standing up on the seat, pushing on a bent gas pedal. Is that right?”
ROUSH – “That’s the other story. He might have had the pole today, but he had an issue. Carl had an issue qualifying, I think he had one foot on top of the other foot and even though we run this car before and run this gas pedal before he found something that he had never found before and the pedal wound up cock-eyed in the car. And he raced it that way all day today because Drew was afraid to change it. That might be an interesting story to understand what was going through Carl’s mind when the gas collapsed when he was qualifying.”
EDWARDS – DID YOU SEE BEFORE CLINT’S CAR AFTER THE REPAIR? WAS THAT THE WORSE LOOKING NOSE JOB YOU’VE EVER SEEN? WERE YOU SURPRISED EVEN WITH ALL THAT DAMAGE, HE GOT IT INTO THE TOP FIVE AT ONE POINT? “I saw in my mirror that I could read a lot more of his hood than I normally could in the mirror. So I thought, “Man, that thing must be bent up.” Then there at the end, I knew he was excited. He came up and rubbed our door and everything. He was all pumped up. They did a good job of recovering. I didn’t get a good look at the car, but any time you can have any damage and fight back and finish fourth, that’s good.”
EDWARDS – CLINT SAID WHEN HE CRASHED THAT HIS SEASON WAS DONE. DID YOU THINK THE SAME THING WHEN THAT HAPPENED? “All I could think of was last night in the truck race, I watched that and I just thought, ‘Man, sure enough, as soon as I start relaxing here and counting points that something will happen to us and it will be a wash.’ I assumed there was some damage, I didn’t know how bad it was damaged, like I said, but I assumed with some damage that he was going to run worse than 10th. I thought, anything, if we were going to finish in the top two or three, it was still going to be a win. But I definitely didn’t relax, I knew that the same thing could happen to us.”
EDWARDS – TALK ABOUT THE GAS PEDAL AND THE VISIBILITY IN THE DESERT SUN. “The visibility is tough. The deal with the gas pedal is, I don’t know if it’s the tapered spacer or what, but it seems like you’re wide-open an awful lot and the [darn] thing won’t go fast enough sometimes. I was think if I push a little harder maybe they don’t have it wide-open all the way set on the butterflies. I was pushing and the thing collapsed and bent down. I didn’t know we had run that pedal before. I must have been trying harder. That’s what happened with the pedal. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come up when I pulled up on it, when I left off of it, so it made me a little nervous. The race track is great. You have a slick race track that has multiple grooves. The visibility is a little tough, but that’s racing. If everything is perfect, it’s not a challenge. To me, to have some bumps out there, to have some curves, apron, sun in your eyes, all that stuff, that’s fun. I like racing at this place a lot.
EDWARDS – IF YOU HAD COME OUT SECOND ON THAT PIT STOP, COULD YOU HAVE GOTTEN BY HARVICK? WAS YOUR CAR GETTING THAT MUCH BETTER DURING THE RACE? “It was like 70-something laps to go. I think we would have been able to get by him. Kevin is really good here and I’m sure he would have made it really tough but our car was really good too. I think before that pit stop, we were running him down pretty good; I think we were going to be able to get by him. Definitely that pit stop helps. Anything you can get and you don’t have to race with a guy for lap after lap to get by him. If you can get by him on pit road, that’s a blessing right there. That’s a gift.”
EDWARDS – YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED LOWER THAN FIFTH IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES SINCE CALIFORNIA. IN THE CUP SERIES, IF YOU THROW OUT TALLADEGA AND CHARLOTTE, YOU’VE NOT FINISHED LOWER THAN THIRD SINCE THE CHASE STARTED. HAVE YOU BEEN ON A STREAK LIKE THIS WHERE EVERYTHING IS CLICKING IN WHAT YOU’RE DOING? “Just performing well. That’s my guys, the engine shop, Drew and Bob making good decisions. It’s a great feeling to go to the race track and know that you can win at almost every race track. It’s one thing that I’ve thought about a lot with respect to the whole season is that no matter what happens, I feel like our teams and what Jack and Robbie and everyone’s been doing, we’ve build something. I feel like we’re going to be really tough for years to come, especially with this new car. This success lately when I’m not wrecked or having parts that fail, that really makes me excited about next year and the year after. I think we have a lot to look forward to.”
EDWARDS – DO YOU HAVE A CAR SAVED FOR HOMESTEAD. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT TRACK? “Yeah, we couldn’t be going to a better race track. I like it. I like the idea of being able to run at the very bottom or the top. I’m sure Drew will bring the best car that we can possibly bring. I just hope it’s fast enough. We can do this.”
ROUSH – CAN YOU ADDRESS WHY YOU SENT YOUR GUYS TO HELP FIX HORNADAY’S TRUCK? “Well, the thing about Hornaday is that he’s Drew Blickensderfer’s father-in-law. And so every time Hornaday has run into one of our guys in the truck series, which has happened repeatedly. Drew has paid a price. I’ve thrashed him pretty hard for it. And so I felt that I owed Drew that last night since we had capacity. We had fabricators and we didn’t anything involved in the wreck. Kevin Harvick flagged me down when he was in the Nationwide car ready to qualify and I’d walked up to watch one of our guys qualify in the line before they went on pit road. He flagged me over and wanted to thank me and I appreciated that. I said, “Don’t misunderstand. I do not like Ron Hornaday. I don’t want anybody to get that impression but he was definitely the lesser of the two evils that I was confronted with. You need to pick your friends as carefully as you need to pick your enemies. I had a chance to define some space and I think I made the right call.”
ROUSH – DID YOU THINK THAT DAMAGE ON BOWYER’S CAR HAD AN AFFECT ON DOWN FORCE? “That was pure speculation on my part. Anytime you have a chance on the front of the car to make a concave surface that can impact air, you have the potential to make more down force. At the same time you do that, you have the potential to make the car loose. Generally what would happen is that you’d expect to pick-up down force, which would stick the front end and unhook the back which could be a much worse problem than just leaving it the way it was. Certainly and I’m not taking anything away from Clint, he did a great job with car that was damaged and made a great recovery. [He] Was patient with it and worked up through traffic. He gets a lot of credit for that. Certainly, I respect him for that, he did a great job, but his car was not diminished to the point to say it couldn’t have had speed. Depending on what balance they had in the car, it may have had a lot of speed. I’m sure the changes that they made in tire pressure and/or wedge and/or track bar reflected the fact that the aero balance had shifted to the front of the car. Probably to their advantage overall.”
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