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And Carl Edwards is now $1.2 million richer, winning NASCAR's All-Star

  Carl Edwards, with a smoking car in victory, after a brusing post-race run-in with a hidden storm drain in the infield (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   When Carl Edwards got wound up, even Kyle Busch had nothing for him.
   And Edwards blew away from Busch and the field in the final 10-lap shootout to win the $1 million Sprint All-Star race.

   The 150-mile feature of the warm night, in front of a huge crowd of nearly 100,000, best in years for this event, was remarkably mild-mannered, despite the typical pre-race hype about rubbing and crashing.
    Edwards ironically provided the only real drama of the night when, after the race, as he was celebrating by spinning on the infield grass, his car hooked on something, maybe a hidden manhole grate, and ripped up the front end. "I had no clue that drain was there," he said.
   "Sorry, guys," Edwards told his crew, then crawling from the car and waving to the crowd and offering a sheepish shrug.
   "At least we finally finished one of these things," Busch said. He'd logged four DNFs in his five previous All-Star races.
   "We got beat by a faster car. The best thing we could have done was something on the restart. Got a good one, but it just took me too long to run him back down.
   "He had grip. He was just so good in the corners. He would hammer the throttle. I thought I could stay with him, within three or four car lengths. But, man, he got a good restart and was darned fast."
   Edwards and Busch had the two best cars throughout the race, which Busch called "a tame race."
    "Kyle is a barrel on those restarts, and if we'd gotten behind him, we'd have been in trouble," Edwards said.
   Edwards, who headed immediately after the race to Iowa for Sunday's Nationwide race, had the lead for the final restart with 10 to go, in the four-segment event, and he was never challenged. Under one of the several unusual rules for this race, the entire field had to make a four-tire pit stop on the parade lap just before the last restart. Edwards' crew was up to the challenge, and he kept the lead he'd gained during the previous segment of 20 laps.
   David Reutimann caught Greg Biffle for third.

   One of the few incidents of the night, Kasey Kahne (4) brushes the wall, just ahead of Greg Biffle (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

      It was not just a great night for Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne, but for Ford and for the other Jack Roush teams too. David Regan won the Showdown, over Brad Keselowski, to earn a spot in the All-Star race. Biffle had one of the fastest cars in the feature, though caught at the end. And Matt Kenseth, with a lightning pit stop the final time in, got into contention too.
     In fact Fords won all four All-Star segments, and Regan won both legs of the Showdown. "Last year was a teething period with this new Ford engine," Roush said.
     The only thing marring the night was Edwards hitting that manhole cover. "Anytime you have grass on the windshield after the race, it's not good," Edwards joked. "I had no clue that drain was there....and I guess NASCAR is mad; they think we're hiding something with the car. But that was a pretty big accident...."
    Edwards pointed to his pit crew as key. This has been a 'pit crew' week, with the annual pit crew championship (won by Denny Hamlin's crew Thursday), and the unusual pit stop during qualifying (won by Kyle Busch and his crew). "The guys on pit road...could have dropped the ball," Edwards said. "There was all the pressure in the world on those guys, and they performed a flawless pit stop, and we got out in front of Kyle.
    "He is such a bear on these restarts."    
    Edwards' celebrating in the grandstands is becoming a standard.
    "It was a spur of the moment thing the first time (at Phoenix last fall), but now it's just nice to be able to go up and celebrate with the fans," Edwards said.
    "And I was pleased to see so many fans here for this race."


  Carl Edwards celebrating in the grandstands (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

      Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished sixth in the preliminary race, won the fan vote to earn a spot in the All-Star. But he was never in contention, finishing 14th in the 21-car field.
 "We feel we can definitely improve on this," Earnhardt said. "It is an old car, a couple of generations old. We will bring a better piece next week.
     I think being in the All-Star race meant more to me than I even thought myself. I was appreciative the fans voted me in.
     "I was a little bit embarrassed we didn't have enough car to get in there (by winning)...a little bit ashamed that we haven't run well enough over the last several years to avoid this process.
      "But the fans did that for me. I would not be doing none of this without them. I probably wouldn't even want to be racing without the support of the fans. They make this sport what it is.
     "It is such a cliché but it is so true when you get down to the bottom of it. I was glad they got me in that race....and I'll have to pay them back somehow."

      Jimmie Johnson ran strong at times in the All-Star, but he gave up track position for fresh tires during a late pit stop and never got back into the hunt.
      Kurt Busch had another very frustrating night, at one point telling his crew to get "some drinks with little umbrellas and just relax," things were so bad. However Busch did manage somehow to get back on the lead lap.


A surprisingly strong crowd, close to 100,000, on a pleasantly warm night, albeit devoid of anticipated fireworks (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


     Edwards of course has that contract renewal cloud hanging over him. This is the final year of his contract with Roush, and rival teams, particularly Toyota teams, are reportedly putting up lucrative offers for Edwards to jump ship.
     Edwards Saturday night again declined to say much about the contract talks.
     "Those talks are going on behind closed doors, and hopefully something will get done," Edwards said. "We're running good because of Jack Roush, and we've got to focus on winning this championship."
    Roush agreed with Edwards that talks would remain behind closed doors.
    "It's not something we're going to discuss in public; it's a private business issue," Roush said.
      Edwards is the eighth different winner of the All-Star race in the last eight runnings. "I feel so bad about tearing up the car, but Bob says he's got a faster one for next week (in the 600 here)," Edwards said.
      "Jack said I could come by the shop and work on this thing this week....but I told him I'd be busy -- we're running in Iowa. Got my Cessna Citation waiting. Practiced some out there this morning (Saturday...."
      "I'm just amazed at the calls Bob makes," Roush said. "I always want to make changes twice as big or half as big...but Bob is always right on the mark."
     "I was worried about spinning the tires on that restart, but the restart was good," Edwards said. "It could have gone either way.
     "But, man, these engines once they get going, they're fast. You've got to be careful...especially with the engines they brought here for this race."
     Roush again talked about the frustrations that dogged his teams through much of 2010, and praised his engineering men for the turnaround. Indeed Edwards has had a potentially winning car nearly every week since last fall, and he goes into the 600 here atop the Sprint Cup standings.
     Jeff Gordon at one point had a potential winning car. But he had nothing for Edwards: "He was really strong. Even not taking tires, his car just really rolled. All the Roush cars roll through the middle of the corner better than we did. We made big gains, and we’ve just got a little bit of work to do to get where they're at."

     Tight racing much of the night, like this sandwich that Carl Edwards (inside) and Kyle Busch (outside) pinned Jeff Gordon in. But it was generally remarkably clean. Did the 'Boys,' leave their 'Have at it' at home? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)





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