News & Media


Early crash at Daytona costs Edwards points lead

July 04, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Damage forced exhaust into No. 99, turning the cockpit into "a sauna"

Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, Carl Edwards confirmed his high level of physical conditioning and the power of persistence.

Earlier in the evening, he might have also learned a smidgen of patience.

"At first it scared me a little bit, how hot it was. It was like a sauna when it's just full-tilt. And then I realized I was gonna be able to hang on ... I wasn't breathing carbon monoxide. I don't understand how it got so hot but that was spectacular -- like a space heater's blowing in your face."

--CARL EDWARDS

Edwards' No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford team fell out of the Sprint Cup Series' points lead for the first time in 10 weeks, surrendering it to Kevin Harvick. But the 25-point lead it held coming into the season's 17th race -- the start of the 10-race "Race to the Chase" that ends at Richmond in early September -- was the reason he was racing so hard at the beginning of the Coke Zero 400 to begin with.

"In the big picture [losing the point lead] doesn't mean much, you know what I mean?" Edwards said. "But there is a lot of pride in leading those points, so we'll try to get that points lead back. But, in the end, this is one of those things that could actually be good -- it could be something that pays off for us.

"That's a pretty big lesson right there. I kind of strayed from my normal M.O. [method of operation] at these places and was being pretty aggressive at the beginning and it bit me, so we'll go to Talladega in the fall and we'll have a better plan."

Edwards actually got into trouble early in the scheduled 160-lap race, which was ultimately was extended to 170 laps, when he got tangled up with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle as they came off Turn 4 on Lap 23.

"It was just the timing of everything," Edwards said. "I was just being aggressive, kinda having some fun. Really, I was trying to get Greg up there so he could lead a lap [because] we got our bonus points."

Edwards had led the race on Lap 19, one of an event-record 57 lead changes among a track-record 25 different drivers.

"I didn't realize the risk we were taking there but it was just perfect -- I guess, not perfect but real unlucky the timing of everything, but that's what we decided we were gonna try to do," Edwards said. "We were gonna go out there and race a little harder this time.

"We had the points lead and not a lot to lose, so it's no big deal. It is what it is. If you take the last five restrictor-plate races and average them out, we've done really well [average finish of 8.4]. We just have to make sure we do well in the Chase."

Edwards actually did well to salvage the escape he did Saturday night. After a long, twirling slide into the inside wall that deranged the rear of his car, he lost three laps making quick repairs and then a fourth lap while he circled the track on his own.

He was only able to turn about 18 more laps before he complained on his in-car radio about the environment inside the car and finally pitted on Lap 48. He lost four more laps there and had to pit on Lap 66 for an extended stop that put him 25 laps down.

But his crew's work paid off as they ended the night trailing Harvick by only five points and they're five points ahead of third-place Kyle Busch.

Despite his earlier discomfort reports, once his car reached its transporter Edwards easily emerged from it and was most interested in getting a Subway ball cap, not oxygen or anything to drink.

"I'm good -- the guys did a really good job getting the crush panels fixed," Edwards said. "I got turned there [but] it was my fault. I was just being a little aggressive. That was the loosest part of the race track for me, off of [Turn] 4; and I know Greg feels bad, but it wasn't his fault -- I was the one being aggressive."

By the end of the race Edwards could even see some humor in his predicament.

"I got that [inside] wall and I could look in the mirror and I could see the ground out of the right-rear of the car," Edwards said, laughing. "I guess the exhaust was being piped right straight in [to the interior].

"That's the hottest I've ever been -- that's it. My guys did a very, very good job of getting the car back to where it was comfortable, even though we went a ton of laps down and we were able to finish the race."

Edwards wasn't always sure that would be the case.

"At first it scared me a little bit, how hot it was," Edwards said. "It was like a sauna when it's just full-tilt. And then I realized I was gonna be able to hang on ... I wasn't breathing carbon monoxide.

"But then the car started running bad. I ran until the car actually quit running. I think it was vapor-locking -- it heated up the fuel line a little bit too much and it was boiling the fuel or heating up the ignition too much.

"I don't understand how it got so hot but that was spectacular -- like a space heater's blowing in your face. That was pretty hot."

Once Edwards' car finally came out of the garage it ran fine and even made up one position on the final lap to ultimately finish 37th.

"That's good," Edwards said, when told he'd passed Geoff Bodine, who retired to the garage after 143 laps with a failed wheel bearing. "We don't ever give up and that's the thing. I told my guys to keep their heads up. We'll take this bad day and keep our pride.

"This is part of it. We knew coming here we could come out of here losing a bunch of points and we lost about as many as we could, but that's OK. We're still right there. Hopefully, we'll be leading it after next week."

Harvick's lead marks the first time since the start of the 2010 Chase -- 27 races ago -- that he's led the standings. This season he's already won a series-high three times.

"[Leading the points] doesn't mean much, right now -- it's all about wins," Harvick said as he strolled out of the garage. "It's like I told 'em last year, if you can lead the points in the first 26 [races] you can lead 'em in the last 10.

"You always want to do the best that you can and it's great for Budweiser. I guess it's since, like, 1985 that they've had a car lead the points, so that's pretty cool."