Carl Edwards spent the past week insisting the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup isn't over. Maybe he's right.
Squeezing 70 laps out of his last tank of fuel at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, Edwards slowed his speed to a relative crawl in the closing laps of Sunday's Dickies 500 and rolled across the finish line 8.31 seconds ahead of Jeff Gordon, who also stretched his fuel mileage.
Edwards trimmed 77 points off championship leader Jimmie Johnson's advantage with two races left in the Chase. Edwards trails Johnson by 106 points as the Cup series heads to Phoenix, where Johnson has won the past two races.
Jamie McMurray ran third, after giving up the lead for a gas-and-go on lap 321 of the 334-lap race. Clint Bowyer was fourth, followed by Greg Biffle. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and David Reutimann rounded out the top ten.
Edwards, who led a career-high 212 laps, opted for four tyres during a pit stop on lap 264 and dropped from the lead to seventh for a restart on lap 270. McMurray led the parade of drivers who took two tyres during the lap 264 pit stops and rolled off pit road with the lead.
McMurray and Bowyer streaked away from the rest of the field after the restart, but both had to pit for fuel with fewer than 15 laps left, as did Biffle. By then, Edwards had worked his way into the fourth position and inherited the lead on lap 322, after all three cars ahead of him had stopped for fuel.
From that point on, it was conservation mode, as crew chief Bob Osborne made the commitment to the fuel gamble. Edwards, who won at Texas in April, is the first driver to sweep both events at TMS in the same season.
“My guys did a great job,” said Edwards, who won his eighth race of the season and the 15th of his career. “We took off there for a while. We made probably the wrong call getting four tyres, but Bob came up with a way to win that thing anyway. That was great.
“First, Bob said, 'We're two-tenths of a lap short, so conserve. Then he came back and said, 'No, we're four laps short. Just go real hard and we'll pit.' Then he came back and said, 'Well conserve.' Just by default, I kind of knew he wasn't too sure about it. But I'm really glad it worked out. It's unreal.
“It was a great day. The fans are awesome, my guys are awesome, and we're closing ground on Jimmie. That's cool.”
Johnson struggled with the handling of his #48 Chevrolet and lost a lap he would never regain, as the race produced a record-low five cautions. He finished 15th.
“Once we got the car through the second or third run, we got the car back where it was competitive,” he said. “We could run in the top five, top ten speeds but just couldn't get to that first car one lap down. With the very few cautions that we had, we were just kind of in a position of riding for the second half of the race.”
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News