2008-10-30 / Sports

Edwards Gets Double Weekend Wins

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

HAMPTON, Ga. - Carl Edwards won Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Memphis, then he took Sunday's Cup race at Atlanta.

But despite his weekend success, he is still 183 points behind Jimmie Johnson in this year's Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, as Johnson rallied to finish second Sunday, behind Edwards.

"I guess I'm going to have to win all three of the remaining races," said Edwards. "It's like Jimmie and his team are magic."

Johnson, who earlier had been sent to the rear of the field because of a speeding penalty on pit road, was running midway of the field, when a caution came out with 13 laps to go in the 325-lap race. His crew chief Chad Knaus called him in for four fresh tires.

"It was a risky call," said Johnson. "It just goes to show that we're out there racing, not just trying to ride around."

The final restart came with nine laps left. With new tires Johnson quickly moved his way around the other contenders. With three laps remaining, he was fourth. On the next lap he moved into third, and on the final time around the 1.5-mile track, he passed Denny Hamlin for second.

But by that time Edwards was at the finish line for his seventh win of the season.

Hamlin, who finished third lost the lead to Edwards during a restart on lap 310.

"We had a good running car, but it didn't like those cycles when a caution came out," said Hamlin. "We had the best car we've ever had at Atlanta, but it didn't like the cycles."

Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon, and Greg Biffle were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Chase contenders with three races to go: 1. Johnson-6248, 2. Edwards 6065, 3. Biffle-6063, 4. Burton- 6030, 5. Harvick-5941, 6. J. Gordon- 5936, 7. Bowyer-5934, 8. Stewart- 5847, 9. Kenseth-5835, 10. Earnhardt- 5829, 11. Hamlin-5823, 12. Kyle Busch-5783

Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 22 of 25: 1. Bowyer-4667, 2. Edwards 4551, 3. B. Keselowski-4378, 4. Bliss-4168, 5. Ragan-4155, 6. Reutimann 4052, 7. Kyle Busch-3931, 8. M. Wallace-3754, 9. Leffler-3726, 10. Ambrose-3692

Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 32 of 35: 1. Benson-3324, 2. Hornaday-3293, 3. Bodine-3106, 4. Darnell-3027, 5. Crafton-3027, 6. Crawford-2983, 7. Skinner-2981, 8. Setzer-2800, 9. Sprague-2792, 10. Mc- Cumbee-2654

Is Cup series headed to Kentucky?

Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith said he is still hoping to have a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway in 2010.

"We will have a Cup race there in 2010," Smith said.

NASCAR has told him that it won't even consider putting Kentucky on the Cup schedule until the antitrust lawsuit by the original track ownership group against NASCAR and sister company International Speedway Corp. is finished.

The lawsuit currently is in U.S. Appeals Court in Cincinnati. In January, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of ISC and NASCAR without the case going to trial because he ruled Kentucky Speedway's expert's theories were inadmissible. If Carroll's group wins its appeal, the case would then go to trial.

NASCAR nervous over economy

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said there are no plans to reduce the number of cars in series races and that the new race car is the best example of the sanctioning body's attempt to hold down costs in a tough economy.

"We are nervous like everybody else," France said Thursday during a teleconference to announce Camping World as the title sponsor for the Truck Series for the next seven years. "We're taking every precaution we can in terms of getting costs out of our system on behalf of the team owners, on behalf of the track operators.

"But this is also a time when you can't freeze either. You've got to still be aggressive and still push hard your product."

France reiterated what he has been saying all year - that the economy is cyclical and the slowdown is impacting NASCAR.

However, France did not say whether the NASCAR organization would reduce any of its fees, or share any of the nearly half-billion dollars earns each year to help struggling teams.

Who's hot and who's not

Jimmie Johnson, the reigning and two-time Cup Series champion, sits in a good place as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway. He is chasing history as well as another title.

Right now he has a 183 point lead and with only three races left, he is almost a sure bet to collect championship number three and equal Cale Yarborough's record, as the only driver to get three consecutive Cup titles.

Comparing his Junior Johnsonowned team to Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports team, Yarborough said: "There's no doubt about what kind of team Junior put together during those years. It was an excellent team. Of course, Rick Hendrick has put together an excellent team for Jimmie Johnson. That's what you've got to have to be able to win a championship, much less three championships in a row: an excellent race team."

"Bobby Allison was driving for Junior. He and Junior were going to separate, and Junior was looking for a driver, I was looking for a ride. We got together. We made a good combination. The championships that I won with Junior were his first championships and, of course, mine. We just hit it off at the right time, the right place, and did the right thing."

"It's hard to explain really what it takes to win consecutive titles like Junior and I did back in the earlier days when we won three in a row. Jimmie and his team all are on a roll now, it's just hard to break that momentum when they get going."

Unless Johnson and his team fall harder than the New York Stock Market, they will take this year's championship by a large points margin.

Greg Biffle scored his second best-ever finish at Martinsville. Unfortunately, he left positions on the table after he fell off the lead lap, when he was forced to stop for fuel because of a pickup issue. He worked his way back among the leaders late but fell short of a win and lost valuable title points in the process.

Jeff Burton has had some solid runs, but his team has not been able to give him the car he needs to keep up with Johnson for the championship.

Carl Edwards was one of the hottest drivers going into the Chase, but a series of problems, including personal ones, both on and off the track has left him second.

Middle of the road drivers that are having a so-so season are Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Kevin Harvick.

The biggest loser so far has been Kyle Busch. His early season display of cockiness after winning eight races has practically disappeared. Last week at Martinsville, he said, "We can't catch a break. I don't know what we need to do?"

Busch started the Race for the Chase as the number one driver, but he has fallen almost every week, and is now the last Chase driver.

Other Chase drivers that have fizzled include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.

Next week: Do you find the Chase format exciting? Should it be changed? Send us your comments. If we use them we will send you an 8x10 photo of your favorite driver.

Weekend racing; All three of NASCAR's major series are at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

Fri., Oct. 31, Craftsman Truck Series Chevy Silverado 350k; starting time: 8:30 p.m. (EST); TV: Speed Channel.

Sat., Nov. 1, Nationwide Series O'Reilly Challenge; starting time: 3 p.m. (EST); TV: ESPN2.

Sun., Nov. 2, Sprint Cup Dickies 500; starting time: 3 p.m. (EST); TV: ABC.

Racing trivia question: Will Greg Zipadelli, the current crew chief for Tony Stewart leave Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season along with Stewart?

Last week's question: How many Cup championships did Darrell Waltrip win? Answer. Waltrip is a threetime champion: 1981-'82, '85.

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

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