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Edwards keeps flipping out at Superspeedway
Apr 10, 2007 12:00 am
GLADEVILLE — Carl Edwards hails from the Show Me State. But he's been flipping out in the Volunteer State recently.
Two weeks after winning at Bristol, Edwards won his second straight Busch Series race at Nashville Superspeedway when he took the checkered flag for the Pepsi 300.
"In enjoy the state of Tennessee," said the Missouri-born Edwards, who won the Busch race here last June and a Truck Series race four years ago. "I did get a ticket here once. The troopers do their job here as well."
It's unlikely the THP could catch Edwards on a sunny Saturday afternoon when the Busch Series finest kept fading away. During the coldest event in the track's seven years, Edwards was just getting warmed up.
The Busch points leader led a race-high 74 laps, all in the second half of the 225-lapper. He twice came out of pit stops in third place, but went back in front both times under green, the latter on Lap 201, and pulled away to finish 4.673 seconds in front of David Reutimann, who conceded Edwards will be as hard to catch in the points chase [he now leads by 321 points] as he was on the track.
"That guy's tough anywhere," said Reutimann, who led twice for 35 laps and had to overcome a penalty when he drove away from the pits with a gas can still attached to his car after arriving in first place. He admitted the penalty probably wouldn't have made a difference, conceding Edwards had the better car at the end. "We could race golf carts here and he'd be tough. He's a great guy and a has a great team. Unless something breaks or he gets run over or something, that's the guy."
The race didn't start off particularly well for Edwards. After some strong practice times Friday, he qualified eighth Saturday morning. But once the green flag dropped on a blustery, low-40-degree afternoon, he fell back.
"I felt really confident going in, like it was our race to lose," Edwards said while strumming his third trophy guitar. "Then they dropped the green flag and we went backward like a rock."
Crew chief Pierre Kuettel admitted he was caught off guard by the unseasonably-cold snap.
"It had cooled off a lot more than I thought, so we made some wholesale changes with air pressure and the car came back to life," said Kuettel, whose team had to fix a loose right-front wheel. "We lost two spots in the pits, but as good as the car was we knew he would get it back."
While Edwards gave Ford bragging rights in Victory Lane, Reutimann, Dave Blaney and Jason Leffler brought Toyota home second, third and fourth, respectively. Blaney, who started 15th, had to regroup after he was hit from behind by Johnny Sauter on Lap 88 while running third.
David Stremme took the pole with a track-record speed of 166.561 mph. His Dodge led the first 20 laps until Reutimann passed him on the back straightaway. He was penalized when a tire got away from the crew during a pit stop and finished 11th.
In all, there were 17 lead changes between nine drivers with Leffler, Shane Huffman and Scott Wimmer taking extended turns in front of the pack before a crowd estimated by NASCAR to be 38,000.
By Dover Downs [the Superspeedway's owner] policy, the track doesn't release attendance figures, though it will announce sellouts. There were plenty of bare bleacher space, but Edwards was impressed by the fans who did turn out on such a blustery day.
"It's awesome to know that many fans came out on such a cool day," said Edwards, who delighted the spectators with his trademark victory backflip on the front grass.
He praised the facility, even though it was the scene of one of his biggest disappointments. He was leading the Busch standings going into the June race two years ago when heavy rain from a former hurricane delayed the event well into the night. Facing a Nextel Cup race the next afternoon at Pocono, he was mere moments from going green here.
"I'll never forget that night," recalled Edwards, who won the Cup race in Pennsylvania while missing the reschuled Busch event here. "I thought I had a car as strong as the car today and leading the points. They said, 'One to go until green' and if they had thrown that green flag, we would have gotten points. But going into Turn 1 it started raining and they didn't go green. I didn't realize how bad it hurt us until the end of the year came around and we needed those points.
"The race doesn't owe us anything but it does feel good to be able to run as well as we have lately here. It's just such an awesome facility. I was looking around here today and I couldn't believe how nice this racetrack is. I brought some folks in who had never been to this track and the first thing they said, 'Is this track new?' It looked nice and the track's beautiful. I love racing here for a lot of reasons, but that night was a rough one."
Bobby Hamilton Jr. raced on his hometown track for the first time since his father died in January. The track honored the elder Hamilton before the race when [Bullet] Bob Reuther, one of the senior Hamilton's mentors, drove the No. 16 car Hamilton won races in at the Nashville Fairgrounds track around the 1.33-mile concrete oval. That lap was followed by a moment of silence.
Hamilton Jr., driving the No. 35 Dodge for Team Rensi, started ninth and climbed as high as third before settling back down to a ninth-place finish.
"Some of those guys either got better and some of them maintained the same," Hamilton said. "When we came out 15th after coming in seventh, that killed us. It's so hard to pass here anyway, so it was just one of those things you have to deal with.
"If this was Richmond or Charlotte or anywhere else, I'd been tickled to death to walk out with a top 10, and it would be no different today."
Mt. Juliet-native Stewart Cooper served as crew chief for Jason Keller's No. 27 Ford. Keller qualified 17th but was taken out in a wreck with Richard Johns after 133 laps and finished 33rd out of 43 drivers.
"I just got in there and it's one of those deals," Keller said. "The Cottonelle guys were really making some good changes and adjustments. It's a shame. We got ourselves pretty close to getting the Lucky Dog there, and it's just a shame that we had to come in here one race and wreck a car like that for them. I thought that I could drive on down there, but I crowded a little bit."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.