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Edwards zones out for second nextel win

Posted: Monday, June 13, 2005

 

  Carl Edwards is lifted off the ground to celebrate after winning the NASCAR Pocono 500, Sunday, June 12, 2005, at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Carl Edwards is lifted off the ground to celebrate after winning the NASCAR Pocono 500, Sunday, June 12, 2005, at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

LONG POND, Pa. — Carl Edwards turned his first laps at Pocono Raceway playing a video game.

He paid attention, and when it came time for the real thing, nobody was better.

Edwards raced to his second nextel Cup victory of the year Sunday, easily adjusting to a new gearing rule and avoiding the tire woes that plagued other drivers.

''It's a nASCAR game that you can buy on the shelf,'' he said. ''I've got a steering wheel and a clutch. Coming to a new track and spending time on one of those things really helps.''

The Missouri driver, who celebrated his first nASCAR nextel Cup victory three months ago in Atlanta with a backflip from the window of his car, did it again Sunday.

His Ford led 45 of 200 laps and beat the Chevrolet of Brian Vickers in a race that ended under caution on the 2.5-mile triangle. Edwards took the lead for the fourth and final time on lap 187. Vickers led six times for 121 laps, both race highs.

While he was winning, Edwards lost the points lead in the Busch Series because a rainout Saturday night in nashville prevented him from racing there Sunday. Reed Sorenson took the Busch lead and Edwards fell to fourth.

When he didn't race in nashville, Edwards jumped on a plane piloted by car owner Jack Roush, who nearly died a few years ago when he crashed into a lake in Alabama. The flight proved back more adventurous than the race because an airport near the track was fogged in.

''I stayed up until 4 in the morning practicing missed approaches with Jack Roush, which, by the way are scarier than the tunnel turn,'' Edwards said. ''My heart was pounding.''

Eventually, Roush diverted to Scranton-Wilkes-Barre International and landed without incident.

''I have more and more trouble getting people to fly with me,'' Roush said. ''Getting them to fly with me the first time is not a problem. But getting them to go with me a second time is an issue.''

Edwards might be among the reluctant after his experience in the fog.

''Trust is a big thing,'' he said. ''You're looking at that gauge and it says you're 500 feet above the ground, but do you really know?''

Edwards, who moved from ninth to fourth in the nextel Cup standings, set a Pocono record for winning from the deepest in the field. He started 29th. Terry Labonte held the record by winning from the 27th position in 1995.

It was the seventh victory for Roush Racing in 14 races this season but its first here since the team entered the sport in 1988. Roush's cars had 11 previous second-place finishes at Pocono.

Roush Racing, led by Greg Biffle with four victories, and Hendrick Motorsports, have combined to win all but two of the races.

Jimmie Johnson, who swept the races here last year and was trying to become only the third driver to win three in a row on the mountaintop, finished sixth and increased his points lead to 123 over Biffle. Biffle finished 30th.

The gearing rule being used at certain events was in force, making this the first Pocono race in many years without drivers downshifting to gain quick acceleration exiting the sharp turns. The rule is designed to cut rpms and reduce the number of engine failures.

There was just one of them among the 43 cars in this race on a hot and humid day when cut tires were the main problem for the drivers. Both Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in numerous times. Most of the cut tires were on the left front wheels, due perhaps to setups used to counter the lack of shifting.

Edwards had some help others lacked. Most of it came from Michael ''Fatback'' McSwain, crew chief for the team of Ricky Rudd, which buys its motors from Roush-Yates Engines.

''Fatback stopped me about halfway through the race,'' Roush said. ''He told me to tell Carl to beware of the curbs. Ricky figured that whenever he bumped the curb he was hurting his sidewall.''

Pocono and the road courses in Watkins Glen, .Y., and Sonoma, Calif., are the only venues where downshifting made the cars go faster through the turns. Drivers will continue to change gears on the road circuits.

In an era where speeds continue to accelerate at most nASCAR tracks, Michael Waltrip's qualifying lap for this race was 169.052 mph, down from Kahne's year-old track record 172.533.

Vickers said his only chance to beat Edwards was to be in front of him.

''We were better than those guys on the short runs, but not on the long runs'' Vickers said. ''We would have had to beat them out of the pits.''

Third in the $4.75 million race was Joe nemechek in a Chevy. next came the Chevy of rookie Kyle Busch and the that of Waltrip. After Johnson came Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray.

The winner averaged 129.177 in a race slowed eight times by 32 of caution. There were 14 lead changes among seven drivers.



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