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Carl Edwards: those final miles were gut-wrenching

  Maybe all's well that ends, but it's the waiting, winner Carl Edwards says, that can be downright painful (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



   Denny Hamlin may be going into the NASCAR season finale as the most despondent tour points leader in stock car history, after Sunday's disappointment. And now crew chief Mike Ford will have to pump him up.

   But Sunday's winners here, Carl Edwards, crew chief Bob Osborne, and team owner Jack Roush, were all in hog heaven, after snapping that losing streak.
   Edwards celebrated not only with his signature backflip but also with a dash into the grandstands, though he had a little tougher time breaking free and getting back to victory lane this time than at Texas.
   "They were really wound up....and fortunately they were all fans of mine," Edwards said of his newest trick.
   "I didn't really think about doing that until last weekend when the gate was open. That's really pretty neat. I highly recommend it.
   "But I think I hit somebody with the checkered flag up there. When I threw it, it didn't really fly the way I thought it would. It's up there somewhere."
   Roush himself, when asked if he'd like to join Edwards on such a victory jaunt, laughed and said "I don't know...I'm not sure people like me as well as they do you. I've got a spotted past, so I'm not sure how it would work out for me."
   Osborne, who is one of the coolest crew chiefs on pit road, is watching the back-and-forth between title contenders Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin with bemusement.
   "A lot of that is kind of a mind-game," Osborne says. "I personally know Mike (Ford, Hamlin's crew chief), and he's not an overly-arrogant fellow.
   "So my guess is they're going to banter back and forth and see who crumbles."
    And what about this fuel mileage finish to Sunday's 500K? Ford called in Hamlin with 14 miles to go, not wanting to run out, and Ford said there was no way Hamlin could have made the distance. But Osborne, who made that last stop the same time Hamlin did, had a driver who managed to make it to the end by babying the gas.
   "It was a gamble," Osborne said. "We rely on Jack quite a bit for calculating the fuel mileage, and Kevin, the team engineer, to calculate the fuel mileage, and both of them said we were short by a various number of laps.
     "That's when it comes into trying to keep Carl informed on how many laps short we are and use his best judgment on whether he can save that many laps or not. 
    "It's either 'Yeah, I can save that many laps,' and we take the gamble, or 'Positively, no way I can save that many laps,' and we decide to come
up with a strategy to pit."
    This time however the two didn't want to say much on the radio, to give away their hand.
   "It's such a gutsy call to stay out there and stretch fuel," Edwards said.
   Edwards and Hamlin both pitted the same time, with about 90 miles to go. But Hamlin was 12 laps shy.
   "I only saved fuel for about half of that last run," Edwards said.
   "I thought we were 12 short....but then a caution came out and I thought we were only six short....Bob didn't really tell me to save fuel. But then he started giving me lap times. And I was wondering why he was doing that, that I guess he wanted me to pick up the pace and keep racing."
   Which Edwards did.
   So just how does Edwards save that much fuel?
    "I have a strategy for saving fuel that I don't talk about," Edwards said with a grin. "But I have a good strategy and it works for me.  I don't even tell Bob what I do."
    Still, Edwards conceded those final laps were literally gut-wrenching.
   "It feels like you're putting yourself out there and you've chosen this path and you're just hoping everything works out," Edwards said.
    "Jack put it best when he came over to reach in the window (afterwards) and said 'I'd forgotten what that felt like, until that feeling in my stomach
came on with two laps to go, and then I remembered.'
    "When he said that, my stomach was still hurting from the nervousness, because there's so much to be gained by winning a race, and it's such a gutsy
call to stay out there and try to stretch the fuel.
    "You just have to sit and wait.  And those are some long laps, those last few laps." 


Watch out for those Fords now

Watch out for those Fords now that Roush Yates have that FR9 engine figured out!

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