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Aumann: Edwards finishes third, but mistake haunting

October 03, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

DOVER, Del. -- Don't make silly mistakes.

It's been Carl Edwards' mantra in a season in which he has a series-leading 20 top-10 finishes, including five consecutive coming into this weekend's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Don't make silly mistakes.

And then he went out and nearly threw away a dominating day -- and his championship hopes -- with his first pit-road speeding penalty of the year.

Don't make silly mistakes.

The timing lines at Dover concerned Edwards enough to confer with crew chief Bob Osborne before he climbed in the car. And he still couldn't avoid making a doozy of an error after pitting under green with 150 laps to go.

"We looked at the pit-road speeding lines and that last line, Bob and I actually discussed the last section," Edwards said. "It's 25 feet, 8 inches long, and we talked about that run and how I was not going to speed through it, and I just blasted right through it."

Nobody was more surprised by the unexpected brain fade than Edwards, who prides himself on being as much a "thinking man's race driver" as any. The ensuing pass-through penalty put him 28th, one lap down and fuming inside the cockpit.

* Video: Chasers pit, Edwards hit with penalty

"That's about as small as you can feel in a race car," Edwards said.

And yet, when the checkered flag fell, Edwards salvaged both his pride and his Chase hopes by rallying for a third-place finish. Some of that had to do with the strength of his No. 99 Ford. Some of it had to do with catching a break from J.J. Yeley's crash 50 laps later, which allowed him to get back on the lead lap.

And perhaps most came from some advice Edwards once received from a book.

"You don't succeed by being the guy that does everything perfect," Edwards said. "You succeed by being the guy that minimizes mistakes."

On Sunday, Edwards made a silly mistake. But he didn't compound the error. And that's why he's virtually tied with Kevin Harvick for the points lead (Edwards is listed in second place in the standings based on NASCAR's tie-breaker system).

* Press Pass: Consistent Edwards finishes third

Edwards eventually worked his way back into the top 10 by Lap 347 and the top five 14 laps later. Osborne made the right call by bolting two right-side tires on the car during the final pit stop -- and Edwards passed Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne in the closing laps to salvage a good finish from what could have been a disaster of epic proportions.

"We were very, very fortunate," Edwards said. "As frustrated as I am with myself for messing that up, I'm really, really grateful for the gift that was given to us with that caution and the ability to come back up there.

"And the other thing that was really important to me was my guys sticking behind me, because they had every right to be really, really upset with me. So it ended up being a good finish."

But coming back to finish third won't be the thing Edwards takes away from Sunday's race. He admitted he'll be haunted by the one thing he most wants to avoid.

"I'm going to think about it," Edwards said. "I'm going to think about it all the way home. I'm going to lay in bed. My wife's going to yell at me and tell me to get over it. That's just how it goes. That's how racing is."

Don't make silly mistakes. Because Carl Edwards knows first-hand how infrequently you get the opportunity to overcome them.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.