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Pocono brings another restart issue for Edwards

June 11, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

LONG POND, Pa. -- Confusion on early restart has No. 99 battling out of early hole for 11th-place

For Carl Edwards, it's go time. Without a victory this season and sitting squarely on the Chase bubble, last season's championship runner-up saw Sunday's event at the resurfaced Pocono Raceway as a perfect opportunity to begin making up some ground in the standings.

Unfortunately, he didn't think the first place he'd be going was back to pit road to serve a pass-through penalty for not falling to the rear of the field on an early restart. That infraction set Edwards back from the very beginning, turning Sunday into a scramble from which he was able to salvage an 11th-place finish.

"I backed up as far as I could, and when they threw the green, the guys were all waiting 100 yards behind me. I didn't think I was supposed to go behind the guys who were purposefully letting the faster guys go."

--CARL EDWARDS

It wasn't all bad -- Edwards was able to move up one place in the Sprint Cup standings to 11th, and he's now three points behind Brad Keselowski for the final guaranteed postseason berth heading to a Michigan International Speedway where the Roush Fenway cars have historically fared very well, though it's also been recently resurfaced. But he's still walking the Chase high wire, given that he's fifth in the wild-card standings behind four drivers who each have victories on the season.

Sunday, though, it was that early restart that ate at him. Edwards started second, but suffered damage to his car entering the first turn of the race -- he thought it was Denny Hamlin who got into him, but he wasn't certain -- and the result was a tire rub that left smoke emanating from the wheel well of his No. 99 car. Edwards went immediately to pit road to get the damage hammered out, and since he pitted before pit road was open, he was ordered by NASCAR to drop to the tail end of the field on the ensuing restart.

That's when things got interesting. Edwards has had an issue with positioning on restarts once already this year, at a Richmond event where he led 206 laps but saw a dominant effort scuttled after he mistakenly thought he was the leader on a late restart. He was black-flagged for jumping the green flag, and finished 10th. Sunday he saw the black flag again, but from a very different perspective. Edwards said he tried to drop to the back, but some cars lagging well behind him made that difficult.

"There was a big group of guys back there, about 10 people, who were not wanting to go line up. They were laying over," Edwards said. "[NASCAR] kept saying, '99, lay over, 99 lay over.' I slowed down all the way at the bottom, and they all slowed down behind me to stay behind me. They did not want to be in front of me. So I pulled up to the pack of cars, at the back of the pack. Like 100 or something yards behind me was the next car. They are obviously not wanting to race.

"I'm not being facetious here," he added, "but I truly don't know what else you're supposed to do. That's the way we've been doing it for as long as I've been doing here."

NASCAR's reaction was swift -- a black flag, and a pass-through penalty for disobeying an official request. Over the radio, Edwards was beside himself. "This is stupid. This is off-the-charts stupid," he lamented as he rolled down pit road for a penalty that would drop him to 40th place. Thanks to the vast dimensions of the 2.5-mile Pocono track, though, he did not fall a lap down. Edwards, who a week earlier at Dover suffered a crash due to a cut tire, eventually regained his cool and apologized to his team.

"All right, not a real stellar start here," he said on the radio. "But we'll get through it."

"Ten-four, bud," crew chief Bob Osborne replied. "Just pick your way through it one car at a time."

And to a large degree he did, getting briefly back into the top 10 before settling for his 11th-place finish. Afterward, he was still unclear about what else he was supposed to do on the restart that got him black-flagged.

"I just didn't do a very good job on the restarts, and we had a little bit of damage," he said. "I think the damage hurt us a little bit. I was really frustrated out there, but I'll let the guys at NASCAR explain it to me. I truly right now don't know a better way to do it other than to wait. I backed up as far as I could, and when they threw the green, the guys were all waiting 100 yards behind me. I didn't think I was supposed to go behind the guys who were purposefully letting the faster guys go."

Evidently so. "He was supposed to be at the tail end of the line," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, who added that it was incumbent upon Edwards to get behind the slower cars following him.

At least Edwards didn't have any problems on pit road, where 22 others drivers were busted for speeding. "I've had enough issues, so I just backed her way down," he said. "I was not going to push it, let's say that."

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