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Edwards captures first Nextel Cup victory of season at Michigan

Jun 18, 2007 - 12:45 AM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor

BROOKLYN, Michigan (Ticker) -- Carl Edwards' 52-race winless drought was starting to become a "hairy" problem for crew member Tom Giacchi.

But after Edwards used fuel mileage to win Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway, it was time to break out the razors.

Giacchi, who had not shaved in over a year and said he wasn't going to until Edward won a race, was starting to look like a creature from the woods.

"People grabbed their children at Wal-Mart when they saw him and locked their doors when they say him coming," said Edwards, who captured his first victory this season and fifth career. "He's a good-looking guy. He used to get a lot of dates."

Edwards had a date with Victory Lane on Sunday, and it came in a region of the country where fuel mileage is so important to the auto industry. Edwards stretched his mileage to the end, breaking his winless drought in his 100th career start.

Edwards made his last pit stop on lap 158 and went the final 84 miles to take the checkered flag. His Ford Fusion passed Jimmie Johnson's Chevrolet Monte Carlo for the lead with 35 laps to go, when he made the pass in the second turn.

With 10 laps left, Martin Truex Jr. brushed the wall slightly while trying to catch Edwards but continued to finish second in a Chevrolet, 3.668 seconds off the pace.

Johnson, who was trying to go a ridiculous 51 laps on a tank of fuel, ran out of gas with eight laps to go. He was running a distant third but would finish 19th, one lap down.

Edwards was unchallenged once he had the lead.

"This one is for my dad," he said. "I've been wanting to give him a trophy - happy Father's Day. It was crazy and I have to thank the fans for sticking with us. My dad is the smartest racer I know. Martin Truex Jr. was brave to be running that high. He taught me something there."

Truex, who was attempting to win his second race in three weekends, overcame a spin during a multi-car crash on lap 76.

"Getting spun on the backstretch didn't help," Truex said. "I was having a hard time paying attention to what I needed on the car and I got tight at the end. I was really tight and couldn't do much with him. It was an awesome race car and the best engine I ever had."

Tony Stewart, who was involved in a crash in Saturday's final practice session when David Gilliland slowed up in front of him, finished third in a Chevrolet.

His run from 41st starting position to third was an improvement of 38 positions, setting a track record. The previous record was 36 positions by Jimmy Spencer in June 1986, when he started 40th and finished fourth.

"Normally, I wouldn't be so happy with a third. But after what happened to me on Saturday, I'm happy with this," Stewart said. "At the start of the race, I let A.J. Allmendinger get by me so I could say I went from dead-last to third. I think that's pretty good."

Casey Mears ran fourth in another Chevy.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who announced Wednesday he has signed a five-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports, finished fifth in a Chevrolet.

Earnhardt will replace Kyle Busch, who ironically finished sixth on Sunday.

The race featured a seven-car crash on lap 76 which included Truex, Ryan Newman, Joe Nemechek, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Jeff Green and Brian Vickers.

Earnhardt avoided the crash when he ran over something for a flat-right rear tire. He dropped back in the pack on the restart and with the melee in front of him, he was well behind it.

Johnson pitted with 51 laps to go and was away in 13.7 seconds. After pit stops cycled through, Johnson was back in the lead with 39 laps left before Edwards took the lead for good four laps later.

The victory helped Edwards forget about Saturday night's Busch race in Kentucky, when he had his first DNF (did not finish) in 20 races after he was nudged into the wall by Steve Wallace on lap 179.

Edwards was attempting to win his fourth Busch race in a row but finished 33rd.

"Yesterday we had a great car in practice," Edwards said. "I felt really good about coming in to this race. It was tough to sleep last night, and I got up this morning and spun on pit road once and got put in the back but we were good enough to get back to the front.

"Martin Truex was really fast. It was great to beat him in a head-to-head race."

Edwards had to overcome a penalty when he was caught for speeding on pit road on lap 69. He was 28th but was able to pedal his way back to the front.

"I've learned through trial and a lot of error you can't make things happen faster than they are going to happen," Edwards said. "That's part of the reason why I'm running so well in the Busch Series and the Cup Series. The key is moving forward, not falling behind or digging yourself in a deeper hole."

Edwards was determined that it was either win or go home, and he wasn't about to blow his chance at breaking his streak.

"Finishing second today would have been like chopping off my arm," Edwards said. "That's how bad I wanted to win. That was very hard, but I had lost 52 races in a row and I've learned how to deal with that. Once I learned how to deal with that better, it's helped my career."

Edwards didn't have to chop off his arm and by winning, he allowed Giacchi to finally chop off his beard.

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