Edwards gets first victory in 19 months
The Associated Press
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Carl Edwards won four races in his first full season, finishing an impressive third in the Nextel Cup standings.
That quick success made Edwards believe wins would be easy to come by. Instead, it took him 19 months to race his way back into Victory Lane.
He finally did it Sunday, overcoming an early speeding penalty and holding off Martin Truex Jr. to win at Michigan International Speedway and snap his 52-race Nextel Cup winless streak.
“It was very difficult to stay composed, especially when Martin was closing in,” Edwards said. “To me, second place would have felt the same as chopping off my arm. I wanted to win. That’s it.”
But Truex, who has not finished lower than third the past three races, brushed the wall in the closing laps and lost his momentum. It cost him a chance to run down Edwards, who handily beat Truex to the line to grab his first win since Nov. 11, 2005, at Texas.
“Is it really over?” Edwards excitedly asked his crew as he closed in on the finish line.
Edwards celebrated his fifth career Nextel Cup win with his trademark backflip off the window ledge of his car. He then shared an emotional hug with crew chief Bob Osborne, who was with him in 2005 but was moved off the crew for most of 2006. The two were reunited at the end of last season.
“It’s been a long time, for both of us,” Osborne said. “I know he’s been dying to get back in the winner’s circle. He’s extremely competitive, awesome race car driver. So, you know, Carl Edwards, I would go to battle for him any day.”
Edwards then gleefully took a pair of scissors to team member Tom Giacchi’s shaggy beard, clipping off a chunk of hair that had been growing since the two vowed in late 2005 that Giacchi wouldn’t shave until Edwards’ next win.
“When they made that silly wager, I had no idea it would be this long,” car owner Jack Roush said. “Carl and Bob won four races the first year. I was even surprised it took this long to get it going this year.”
The victory gave Roush his second win of the season — first since Matt Kenseth won Feb. 25 at California — and temporarily sidetracked Hendrick Motorsports’ season-long domination. Hendrick cars have won 10 of the 15 races this season.
Roush, who has company headquarters in nearby Livonia, makes winning at Michigan a priority for all his drivers and he celebrated twice this weekend — Travis Kvapil won the Truck Series race Saturday.
Edwards’ victory was only the second of the year for Ford, and it snapped a 13-race winning streak for Chevrolet. No other manufacturer has won a race this season.
“Ford has given us every technical support, all the money that we’ve asked for to help us put in equipment and be competitive with the other manufacturers, with the other teams,” Roush said. “They deserve more, and I’m just embarrassed that it took us this long to really celebrate it with Carl and the guys.”
Truex, who had his first victory two weeks ago at Dover, finished second after overcoming a spin on the backstretch 100 laps into the race. Truex, who led 54 laps before the early spin and has climbed to 10th in the series standings, heaped praise on his Dale Earnhardt Inc. team.
“It was a great day for us,” he said. “The team did another awesome job. I think it was the best pit stops we’ve ever had on pit road. Awesome race car, and probably the best engine I’ve ever had. Guys are doing great, man, and I’m loving life right now.”
Two-time series champion Tony Stewart, winless this season, was third. Stewart had a strong car in practice Saturday, but an accident with David Gilliland caused heavy damage and he wasn’t sure how good his car would be during the race.
He was supposed to start 41st, but deliberately hung back at the green flag to fall into 43rd place at the start.
“With what happened (in practice) and where we qualified, it was two strikes against us,” Stewart said. “I made sure I went across the start-finish line in 43rd, so wherever we ended up I could say we went from dead last. From 43rd to third is a pretty good day.”
Casey Mears, on a roll since his first career win on May 27, was fourth and the highest-finishing Hendrick driver.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth to give DEI two cars in the top five, and the showing moved him into Chase for the championship contention. He’s 12th in the standings — where he was before a 100-point penalty last month knocked him down to 14th — and is trying to end his time at DEI on top.
Earnhardt, who agreed to a five-year deal this week to drive for Hendrick Motorsports starting next season, congratulated Truex, his teammate.
“Martin did good, he did such a good job today. That team has found something — I might sneak over there and find out what it is,” Earnhardt said. “We had a good car. We were as good as anybody at the end of the race, just ran out of laps.”
Kyle Busch, who is losing his ride at Hendrick to make room for Earnhardt, was sixth and was followed by Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray and series points leader Jeff Gordon, who was ninth and the last driver on the lead lap.
Michael Waltrip, racing for just the third time this season, was a surprising 10th and even led one lap. He was with the leaders most of the race, and was lapped with one lap to go.
“It’s just a great, great feeling to run that well,” said Waltrip, who has failed to qualify 12 times this season. “Overall, I’m very pleased. My guys are rusty, but you’d never know it. It was a hot day and I hadn’t got to race this much, but I felt just as good at the end as I did in the beginning.
“When the checkered fell then I felt hot, tired and glad it was over.”
Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson had been running in third, but ran out of gas seven laps from the finish and wound up 19th.