2008-10-02 / Sports

Johnson Edges Edwards At Kansas

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Carl Edwards gave it all he had, but his best effort wasn't quite good enough to keep Jimmie Johnson from winning Sunday's Sprint Cup Camping World RV 400 at Kansas Speedway.

"Man, I thought I had him (Edwards) under control, and suddenly he was there," said Johnson. "I saw the slide job coming and dodged it and got the win.

"That last pit stop where the team got me out first and I could get that clean air was the difference. The 99 was probably better on the long runs, but that pit stop is what did it."

Johnson's win moved him into the number one spot in the Chase.

Johnson was leading as the laps wound down in the 267-lap race, while Edwards was a close second. Johnson was running a high groove, with Edwards running a lower line. Edwards shot underneath Johnson as the two leaders came out of turn four and headed to the checkered flag.

Edwards temporarily gained the lead, but his No. 99 Office Depot Ford lost its grip and went up, brushing the wall. Edwards was able to regain control of his car, but Johnson maintained his line and beat Edwards to the finish line for his fifth win of the season by about 100 feet.

"I drove the car as hard as I could," said Edwards. "I planned on hitting the wall as I went up, but I didn't plan on the wall slowing me down that much. I played a lot of video games where you can run it into the wall and still hold it wide open. That's what I did, but it didn't work out quite the same.

"I really, really wanted to win this race and I feel bad for the guys back in the shop for tearing up their race car. That's as hard as I could go there at the end. I just wish I could have won that race."

Edwards lost the Chase lead and now trails Johnson by 10 points.

Greg Biffle, who finished third, now has four top-five finishes in the last five races. He was able to nip Jeff Gordon at the finish line.

"We were just trying everything there in those last few laps," said Biffle. "We tried everything in the book to get that car to go a little bit better. I just fought it all day, tight in the center and loose on the gas.

"It was a hard-fought battle there at the end with Jeff Gordon. It seemed like Dover all over again, but I'm glad we got him at the end."

Biffle remains third in the points.

Jeff Gordon came in fourth and prior to the race, he said, "I have never been sicker in my life starting a race." He was able to run the complete race, but his team had Brad Keselowski standing by in the pits in case he was needed.

Gordon moved up two Chase spots to sixth.

Matt Kenseth spun out once, but still managed a fifth-place finish. He moved up to ninth in points.

Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, David Ragan, A. J. Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler were the remaining top- 10 finishers.

Jeff Burton remains fourth. His teammates, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, are fifth and seventh.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to run in the middle of the pack. His 13th place finish moved him up one Chase position to eighth.

Denny Hamlin moved up from 11th to 10th, while his teammate Tony Stewart had all kinds of race problems and is now mired back in 11th position.

Kyle Busch finished 28th, one lap down and is now the 12th and last Chase driver. He is 311 points out of first.

Chase contenders after 29 of 36: 1. Johnson-5575, 2. Edwards-5565, 3. Biffle-5545, 4. Burton-5454, 5. Harvick 5439, 6. J. Gordon-5432, 7. Bowyer-5411, 8. Earnhardt-5385, 9. Kenseth-5383, 10. Hamlin-5332, 11. Stewart-5320, 12. Kyle Busch-5264

Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 30 of 35: 1. Bowyer-4392, 2. Edwards 4196, 3. Keselowski-4124, 4. Bliss-3906, 5. Ragan-3886, 6. Reutimann 3791, 7. Kyle Busch-3736, 8. M. Wallace-3499, 9. Leffler-3490, 10. Ambrose-3456

A look at the 2009 Lineup

Some teams are set for the 2009 season, but others face the future with uncertainty. Those with sponsors already lined up are set to go, but the ones who aren't sure of financial support are in trouble.

"We're working on trying to give our sponsors value for their dollar because when they cut, we don't want to be one of the things they cut," owner Rick Hendrick told NASCAR Scene. "We want to be able to measure our success with them, what we brought to the table and what we've been able to generate."

The big-five racing teams of Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush-Fenway, Gillett- Evernham and Richard Childress are good.

For those who don't have primary sponsors then consolidation with another team might be the only way out for them.

Why?

No brand new primary sponsors have been announced. Yes, there have been some big time switches. UPS, Office Depot and Caterpillar will switch to new teams, but all those big companies have been involved with NASCAR for several years.

Only a handful of part-time Cup sponsors have increased their involvement with NASCAR teams.

But it hasn't been enough to balance out companies like AAA, Dodge, and Texaco that are leaving at the end of 2008.

Why is this happening? Is it the energy problem or meltdown on Wall Street?

There a lot of companies who just don't have the advertising budgets to spend $25 million and be a fulltime sponsor. Six million dollars used to work, $10 million used to work … but not $25 million.

And also, sponsors want winning teams that are capable of running up front most of the time. A good example of this is Petty Enterprises. As of now they have no major sponsors for either of their two cars.

Here's how the rest of the teams look: Yates Racing-2 teams, no signed contract or major sponsor for either car; Stewart-Hass Racing-2 teams, sponsorship O.K. for 2009; Dale Earnhardt Inc.-4 teams, not enough sponsors for all teams; Hall of Fame racing-1 team, no sponsor.

Penske Racing has full-time sponsors for two of it cars, but nothing lines up for the third one. Team Red Bull said they will run two teams. The Wood Brothers do not have sponsors for their No. 21.

There is talk of Chip Ganassi merging with Michael Waltrip Racing. That would produce four teams with two full-time sponsors. Furniture Row has one team and should be able to run all year. Robby Gordon will somehow manage to keep his team together if he doesn't merge with someone else.

If some of the teams close up shop then that means fewer owners. With fewer owners, power is consolidated into a smaller group and there is less opportunity for new drivers and crewmen coming into the sport.

Tougher economic times are here, racing costs have gone through the roof, and many teams are having to look at some things differently in order to survive.

Next week: Bobby Hamilton Jr. and Team Rensi

Weekend racing: The Craftsman Trucks and Sprint Cup teams are at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. The Nationwide teams have an off week.

Saturday, October 4, Craftsman Trucks Mountain Dew 250; Starting time: 3:30 p.m. (EST); TV: Speed Channel

Sunday, October 5, Sprint Cup AMP Energy 500; starting time: 1 p.m. (EST); TV: ABC

Racing trivia question: Who does David Ragan drive for?

Last week's question: Who are the three Richard Childress Cup drivers? Answer. Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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