Backflipping to first place? Carl clings to win at Pocono in Chase for Cup at Miami
LONG POND, Pa. (August 3, 2008) — During a rain delay that stopped the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 for 41 minutes, driver Carl Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne argued loudly about who made the call to come to the pits after an afternoon thunderstorm began to soak Pocono International Raceway.
In retrospect, both should be willing to take the credit, because the strategy earned Edwards his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the year and the 11th of his career. Tony Stewart came home second, 3.858 seconds back. Polesitter Jimmie Johnson was third, coasting across the finish line at the 2.5-mile triangular track after running out of fuel in the final corner.
Kevin Harvick rallied from a first-lap spin to finish fourth. David Ragan was fifth, followed by Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon.
Edwards’ chances of winning hinged on the race resuming after the rain delay, which came on lap 131. Edwards, Johnson and Stewart were among those who had come to the pits on Lap 128, while 19 other cars remained on the track.
When the race resumed, however, those 19 cars had to make two pit stops to one for those drivers who already had come to pit road. That proved to be the difference.
Martin, Edwards and Johnson dominated the first two-thirds of the race, leading 53, 36 and 33 of the first 131 laps, respectively, but only Martin, who did not pit on Lap 128, was among the frontrunners when NASCAR red-flagged the race.
“Bob and I were really arguing,” Edwards said. “I was really nervous that we made the wrong call there. But Bob Osborne is just real smart. I’m really proud of him for the strategy. Bob did a really good job—but I wasn’t so sure when we were yelling at each other about halfway through.
“I think we were both about 51 percent for coming (to the pits), but after it started raining harder, we started blaming each other for making the call.”
Osborne, on the other hand, said it was Edwards’ premonition that the rain would end that gave him the confidence to call for the pit stop.
“Kudos to Carl Edwards,” Osborne said. “That’s what teamwork is all about.”
Stewart was elated with his runner-up finish, his best result since running second at Atlanta in the fourth race of the season.
“I’m really happy with the way it ended up, obviously,” Stewart said. “I mean, for us, that’s a win. It seemed like our car was an eighth-to-10th-place car the majority of the day. I think the track tightened up a lot during the red. Seemed like our car got better from that point on. We were too loose up to that point.”
When Edwards and Johnson came to pit road in the rain on Lap 128, Kahne inherited the lead, followed by Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle and Martin. The winner of the June race at Pocono, Kahne didn’t want to see the race resume after the stoppage.
“I think it will probably go green again—maybe not—but (crew chief) Kenny (Francis) said to stay out,” Kahne said during the delay. “I’d just rather call it a day. I think we’re a second-place car to Carl Edwards right now.”
As it turned out, the race resumed, and Kahne was half right. Edwards was indeed the class of the field, but the one extra pit stop Kahne was forced to make dropped him to seventh at the finish.
The race wasn’t a lap old when Joe Nemechek spun Kevin Harvick in the Tunnel Turn (Turn 2), but Harvick warded off the potential damage to his attempt to reenter the top 12 in the championship standings by climbing back to fourth by the end of the race. Havick is 11th in the point standings now.
Kenseth, who finished 11th Sunday, dropped to 13th in the championship standings, 11 points behind Bowyer in 12th.
Notes: Ragan held 14th place in the standings but moved to 46 points behind Bowyer in 12th . ... Johnson posted his ninth top-10 finish in 14 races at Pocono. … With a 12th-place run, Dale Earnhardt Jr. trimmed the points lead of 36th-place finisher Kyle Busch to 176. With two laps left, Busch was assessed a pass-through penalty for a commitment line violation.[story and photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com]