Fuel gamble pays off for Edwards in Pocono win
Long Pond, PA (Sports Network) - Carl Edwards capitalized on a late-race pit
strategy to win Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono
Raceway. Edwards last pitted with 35 laps remaining and had just enough fuel
remaining to score his second win at the 2.5-mile triangular track. It was his
fourth victory of the season and the 11th of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
But Edwards' victory was almost foiled by Mother Nature.
With rain approaching the track, teams began green flag pit stops. Edwards
held the lead until he made his stop on Lap 119, taking on four new tires. He
reclaimed the top spot after the stops cycled through on Lap 122.
NASCAR displayed the yellow flag on Lap 128 for rain falling on part of the
track. Several of the leaders pitted again in hopes the race would continue.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pitted for fuel only, while Edwards and pole sitter Jimmie
Johnson took on two tires each. However, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Johnson and
Edwards returned to the field 20th, 21st and 22nd, respectively.
Kasey Kahne opted not to pit and grabbed the lead for the first time on Lap
128. NASCAR halted the race three laps later.
During the red flag, Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne debated their call to
"Bob and I were really arguing to try to make a little light of it, but we
thought we had made the wrong call," Edwards said.
They were incorrect.
The race resumed after a 41-minute delay, but more threatening weather was
Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin passed Matt Kenseth for second and third just
after the restart. But Kahne jumped out to a near three-second lead over
Hamlin until Lap 138 when the seventh caution came after Joe Nemechek and Paul
Menard made contact and slammed into the wall.
A light rainfall in turn three extended the caution several more laps. When
the race resumed with 55 laps to go, Kahne remained out in front. Juan Pablo
Montoya blew an engine just after the restart, but no caution flag was
displayed, despite some oil from Montoya's car spotted on the track.
Earnhardt, Jr. and Johnson, who pitted before rain halted the race, moved back
into the top-10 with 50 laps remaining. Edwards had climbed up to 11th.
Kahne, Martin, and Hamlin were the first drivers to pit during a cycle of
green-flag pit stops. Greg Biffle captured the lead when Kahne came in for his
Biffle handed the lead over to Kurt Busch when Biffle pitted. Busch led five
laps, but ran out of gas and coasted into the pits. Kenseth ran out in
front for two laps before Edwards reclaimed the top spot.
Edwards was one of the last drivers to pit during the round of stops, and it
would be his last one of the day. Tony Stewart also pitted on the same lap as
Edwards. Both drivers hoped to go the distance without another stop.
When the long round of green-flag stops was completed, Kahne was back in front
with Martin in the second spot.
Kahne made his final stop with 15 laps remaining as Martin moved into the top
spot. Martin came down pit road one lap later, handing the lead back over to
Edwards. Kahne and Martin took fuel and two new tires only on their stops.
Edwards held a six-second advantage over Stewart with 10 laps to go. He slowed
down enough in the final laps to conserve enough fuel, but yet maintain a
sufficient lead over Stewart and third-place Johnson. The fuel held up as
Edwards crossed the line 3.858 seconds ahead of Stewart.
"My car was really, really loose all day," Stewart said. "Right after the
(rain delay), we were pretty decent. It came to us finally. We finally had a
good run, and it stayed with us all day."
Johnson, Kevin Harvick and David Ragan completed the top-five.
With the victory, Edwards moved up two positions in the championship standings
to third. He trails leader Kyle Busch by 185 points. Earnhardt, Jr. (-176)
remained second after his 12th-place run.
Busch was running fourth with two laps to go, but ran out of fuel. He made it
into the pits for a splash of gas, but stalled as he exited. Busch ended up
finishing a lap down in 36th place. He finished 43rd at Pocono in June.
The series will run next Sunday at Watkins Glen International.
08/03 20:19:09 ET
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