Carl savors time after home winner
Posted: Monday, July 21, 2008 7:03 pm
MADISON, Ill. (AP) _ Carl Edwards was in no rush to get to the post-race interview room at Gateway International Raceway.
Edwards passed Jason Leffler with 49 laps remaining Saturday night and cruised to victory at the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250, marking his second win at Gateway in three years in front of a nearly hometown crowd.
“It was so hard to leave victory lane, I didn’t want to come down here,” said Edwards, who grew up in Columbia, Mo., about a 2-hour drive from the track. “I have so many friends down there, they’re taking pictures. It’s just really, really special to win here for me.”
Joey Logano, the 18-year-old racer in just his fifth race, finished second after starting fourth. Jason Keller took third, followed by Leffler and Brad Keselowski.
Edwards earned his second victory on the Nationwide circuit in 21 starts this year.
He has nine Top 5 finishes and 11 in the Top 10.
Edwards took advantage of the sixth caution of the 200-lap race.
He got four tires and filled his tank, coming out of the pits third.
He quickly overtook Leffler and James Buescher and went on for the easy victory.
“When you’ve got it, you’ve got it,” Logano said. “And (Edwards’ team) hit it dead on tonight. It was showing pretty much the whole race. My car wasn’t horrible. It was pretty good, but Carl’s car was remarkable.”
The final caution, caused after David Reutimann got underneath the back of Keselowski, provided one of several pauses during the choppy race.
Landon Cassill, who finished sixth, started a five-car accident that brought out a red flag with 84 laps left.
He sent Scott Wimmer into the wall with a tap to the driver’s side back bumper, causing a chain reaction that knocked out Wimmer, Mike Bliss, last-year’s winner Reed Sorenson and Steve Wallace.
The cars remained under red for nearly 30 minutes as the track was cleaned before driving resumed under caution for five laps with pole-winner Jamie McMurray in the lead.
“When you’ve got a guy who doesn’t want to get passed and a guy who wants to pass, it gets tough,” Cassill said. “I was just right on (Wimmer), but it’s just hard to give up track position. I saw him bobble and as soon as he bobbled, it was too late. I just nudged him.”
The event started despite a partial power outage that darkened about a third of the lights around the track, including the caution lights, the scoring tower and the public address system.
Officials called a competition caution on Lap 22 to practice going through the procedure without the caution lights.
The caution was lifted on Lap 25 and all the power was restored almost immediately after the green flag was waived.
However, the caution lights went blank for a second time. That brought out another competition caution on Lap 72.
McMurray, who earned the pole with a speed of 133.101 mph during qualifying, left the race with engine problems after completing 152 laps.
It marked the 11th time in 12 events at Gateway that the pole-sitter failed to win.
Martin Truex Jr.’s victory in 2004 was the only time the top qualifier has won at Gateway.
Logano led twice for a total of 42 laps and he finished for the second consecutive race and in the Top 5 for the third straight.
In the end, however, it was Edwards’ final pitstop that got him the victory.
“There’s only been a couple of times I’ve had a car that dominant at the end of race,” Edwards said. “I was just cruising around at the end and the car was so good. I was really proud of the guys for making the adjustments like that. I couldn’t believe how fast it was.”