SPRINT UAW-Dodge 400Final
Edwards wins second straight at Las VegasMar 3, 2008 - 3:38 AM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
LAS VEGAS (Ticker) - Talk about being lucky in Las Vegas.
Carl Edwards avoided what could have been a disastrous penalty on pit road to go on to victory in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup UAW-Dodge 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was Edwards' second-straight win after the Columbia, Missouri driver won at California in Monday's rain-rescheduled race.
During a caution period with 54 laps to go, the challengers made pit stops during the seventh caution period of the race. Edwards' Ford was the third car off pit lane but one of his wheels rolled across pit lane after the crew member couldn't get to the wheel because a cameraman was in the way.
After reviewing videotapes of the incident, NASCAR officials decided not to penalize Edwards, who was third when the race restarted on lap 219. He would have had to serve a pass-through penalty in the pits which would have dropped him way back in the field before NASCAR determined it wasn't his team's fault.
"At the end, I was extremely nervous," Edwards said. "I thought we were going to receive another penalty for a tire that got away and NASCAR made a judgment call in our favor after looking at the tape. I believe it was the right one and I'm just very gratefully for them looking at that and giving that to us."
After a red-flag stopped the race with five laps to go following a crash involving Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon, Edwards won a two-lap shootout to score his ninth career Cup Series victory.
He defeated Earnhardt's Chevrolet by 0.377 seconds.
"It's over, for sure?" Edwards asked his crew on the radio before he climbed out of his car and did a back-flip that could earn him a position for Cirque du Soleil. "I always ask if it's over because you don't want to do anything stupid. That's the worst feeling in the world to stop racing with one lap to go."
Hours after the checkered flag dropped, NASCAR inspectors discovered the lid for the oil tank box that is behind Edwards' driver's seat was off, which could be a penalty. NASCAR will take the part back to the R & D Center in Concord, North Carolina before any determination is made regarding further action.
The victory, however, stands as Roush-Fenway Racing had two cars in the top three including the winner and Greg Biffle's Ford in third place. Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets finished fourth and fifth with Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton.
Toyota driver Tony Stewart suffered an apparent ankle injury during a hard crash on lap 108.
Stewart's race ended with a hard-crash into the third-turn wall on lap 108 after a right-front tire blew up. Stewart's Toyota hit the third-turn wall and then slid through to the fourth-turn wall. He complained on the radio to his crew that he was injured.
Stewart entered the race third in points, only 19 points out of the lead. It was the second day in a row that Stewart crashed.
Stewart, a two-time Cup Series champion, had complained about his car being tight two laps before the hard crash. Stewart was helped to the safety vehicle walking with a limp.
Stewart was checked and released from the infield care center but admitted he was concerned when his legs went numb after the crash.
"That's the hardest one I've taken in a long time," Stewart said. "It just blew a right front and went straight in (to the wall.) It didn't try to turn or anything; it was a real tight part of the corner. It hit so hard it has my lower back sore and made my legs feel almost half-numb, just tingle until we got to the infield care center.
"We smacked it yesterday in the Nationwide race and thought I had made some ground on it and tried to finish it off but it shows how good the soft walls are."
Racing resumed on lap 114 with Kyle Busch, Kenseth and Gordon involved in a fierce battle on the track before Kenseth pulled away to a 2.194-second lead over Gordon after 135 laps.
Robby Gordon's Dodge had a similar problem on lap 144 when the right front blew up sending him into a hard thud into the SAFER Barrier.
Late in the race, Kurt Busch's Dodge had a right tire explode sending the car hard into wall for another caution with 10 laps to go.
Five laps later, Edwards led a single-file restart ahead of Earnhardt, Kenseth and Gordon.
Earnhardt spun his tires and got a terrible restart as Gordon and Kenseth split Earnhardt's Chevrolet. Before the field got into the second turn, Kenseth's Ford went sideways after it was barely touched by Gordon. Gordon's car drove out of control and hit an opening in the infield pit wall, destroying the car and sending the radiator flying across the track.
"It was a little bit my fault, I didn't want to be on the inside there, I got down on the bottom and thought it would stick but it drifted up and I got into Matt Kenseth and I hate that happened," Gordon said. "That's the hardest I ever hit."
The cars were parked in the first turn when the red-flag was displayed. Kenseth's Ford had flat tires and had to pit once the red flag was rescinded.
"The damn red flag," Earnhardt lamented after finishing second. "Anxiety just kills you sitting there and you don't know how long it's going to take. The anxiety just kills you and to be parked for 20 minutes, it just kills you. The green flag, no crash, we were in good shape.
"Red flags, I hate them."
That was nothing compared to the anxiety that Edwards' crew felt after one of their tires rolled across pit road for the second time in the race. Earlier in the race, Edwards was penalized for a tire that got away on a pit stop by going to the end of the longest line.
When crew chief Bob Osborne saw the second tire roll across at a crucial time in the race when it wasn't a crewmembers fault because he was blocked by a cameraman.
"Right away I saw the tire rolling and where we were pitting on pit road and it was obvious it was ours," Osborne said. "The crew member that was supposed to catch it on pit road ran up to the box and said what happened so I jumped down and talked with the official about it. In that situation you didn't actually break a rule; you have to keep a level head, so I did my best to do that.
"I wanted to go ballistic for sure and yell and scream and take a punch and do whatever I had to do to get my way, but I had to keep a level head the best I could and the officials were very good in that situation. They did what they had to do and reviewed the film and gave us a judgment call in our favor."
It was team owner Jack Roush's sixth win in 11 races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The win gives Edwards the Sprint Cup points lead for the first time in his career. He leads Kyle Busch by 21 points and Ryan Newman by 41 entering next Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"We do this to win," Edwards said. "That's the thing. Winning these races is the greatest part of this whole thing for me. Winning a championship would be the ultimate. What we're trying to do is win the championship this year. That's our No. 1 goal.
"But really, truly, it's the feeling of winning. That's an amazing feeling."
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