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Edwards survives Charlotte, pads his lead in Chase

October 17, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Comes to an understanding with Kyle Busch after 'racing hard' during final laps

After some close-quarters racing for second place with Kyle Busch during finals laps of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards was definitely happy to pad his lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings.

Edwards' third-place finish was only his second top-five in eight starts at Charlotte with NASCAR's new car. And after he led a lap and finished three spots ahead of second-place point man Kevin Harvick, at the mid-point of the 10-race Chase, Edwards was beyond pleased.

"We should definitely be racing each other hard, it's just that there's a difference between racing hard and then cutting across the guy's nose."

--Carl Edwards

"Yeah, it's huge for us," Edwards said. "We had this one circled on the schedule as one that our whole Aflac team was nervous about. We qualified well. We were not that fast at the beginning of the race and Bob [Osborne, crew chief] did a really good job dialing it in; the car and the track kind of came to us, so just overall a really good night for Roush Fenway."

Edwards started third and, unlike last week at Kansas when he knew on the first lap that he was in for a long day, his No. 99 Ford was never scored outside the top 10. In fact, in NASCAR's 20-lap interval scoring, the car was scored in the top five for more than the final 190 laps.

"It was a lot better than last week but we were off a little bit," Edwards said. "We were not as fast as Kyle [Busch] or Matt [Kenseth, teammate and race winner]. We'll just go back and look at it and figure out what we are missing.

"It might be something I'm doing driving that's not correct here and there, might be some set-up stuff, but we are slowly working on it. I feel better after this run. The All-Star Race, Coke 600 and this race were all decent for us, so that's three in a row. That's the best we have ever been here."

His cushion isn't much and Edwards isn't counting anyone out, even five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, who came into Charlotte only four points out of the lead and ended the race 35 points behind after crashing into the wall with 17 laps remaining.

"Well, it can happen to any of us, so obviously the more points we can get on the guys in the Chase, the better," Edwards said. "So [Johnson] could go on a tear and be leading the points in three or four weeks. And that could happen, too, so I don't count him out."

One thing Edwards can count on is having an understanding with Busch after they had a one-on-one discussion on pit road after the race. Edwards felt the incident, in which he thought Busch intentionally cut him off exiting Turn 2 in the race's late stages while the two chased Kenseth, was inappropriate.

"I should've wrecked that 18 [Busch] -- that wasn't normal," Edwards said over his in-car radio to his spotter, Jason Hedlesky, while confirming Hedlesky had seen the same thing Edwards had. "Next time I'll just wreck him."

During his post-race interviews, Edwards soft-pedaled the exchange.

"We should definitely be racing each other hard, it's just that there's a difference between racing hard and then cutting across the guy's nose," Edwards said. "What I told Kyle is I just wonder why coming off of Turn 2, when I got underneath him that he drove down instead of going up to the wall like we would normally do. And I just let him know that next time that happens I'll just stay where I'm at and he can drive across my hood and wreck himself.

"It just surprised me. Now, he told me that he didn't mean to do it, and so I got to believe that. But I don't know what else there is to say about it. It's just racing, and we didn't wreck and we are going to race hard like that. That's just how I saw it."

Busch offered the same explanation immediately after he got out of his car and again, when questioned further inside the media center.

"Certainly it's a tight race and Carl got a good run through the turn and got up to my left rear quarter panel," Busch said. "Typically that gets you a little loose, and my car got loose and it started moving out a little bit and I just held the wheel straight and it was essentially staying, steering almost downhill.

"It did not get sideways, like really loose, that I about wrecked. It just started steering and kind of freewheeling, so I just let it go. I ran [Edwards] a little tight. Essentially it made me run him a little tight out there on 2 and I just hugged on his door down the stretch to kind of side-draft him to keep him alongside of me to give me another chance at redeeming myself through 3 and 4 and getting back by him and it worked out.

"There was no malicious intent involved to cause anything or to hurt his chances at finishing second or anything. So it was just a product of what we had at the end going for everything we could and trying to come home second."

Edwards has led the standings for 17 weeks this season, but he's never led this late in any season -- even when he won nine times in 2008 but finished second to Johnson. Edwards basically promised more of the same type of racing as witnessed in the stretch at Charlotte.

"I think right now, you have to still get everything you can -- I mean, I raced really hard [Saturday] night," Edwards said, turning to Busch seated next to him. "Not quite as hard as you ...

"I'm racing as hard as I can, trying to get every point I can. That's how we have raced all season. It has not worked out for some wins but that's mostly been strategy and stuff like that. I feel like I've kind of ... I found kind of a balance where I've wrecked enough, made enough stupid decisions early on that I'm trying to be better at not giving them away. So just keep doing what we've been doing and if it works out, it works out."