2011-06-23 / Sports

Hamlin Denies Ford A Michigan Sweep

By Gerald Hodges

Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin BRROKLYN, Mich. – Carl Edwards looked like he was going to sweep the racing weekend at Michigan International Speedway, but a late caution after Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the outside wall in Sunday’s Cup race caused him to wind up fifth.

Edwards was leading the race when Earnhardt swiped the wall with 10 laps to go in the 200-lap race. During the caution period, all the leaders pitted.

Denny Hamlin and Edwards’ teammate, Matt Kenseth, beat Edwards out of the pit. On the restart, Hamlin got a good jump and held off Kenseth for his first win of the season.

“We finished, that’s the good news,” said Hamlin. “This is one race we didn’t have any major issues or breakdowns. We might not have looked as strong as we have been, but there at the end we made the right adjustments that put us out front.”

Kenseth closed on Hamlin, but coming out of the last turn on the last lap, Kenseth’s car wiggled and he had to back out of it.

“I think we did a great job,” said Kenseth. “We were close, but I just couldn’t get around him.”

Kyle Busch was third, and Paul Menard came in fourth, his best finish of the season.

“It was a good run for us,” said Menard. “We’ve had a rough season, and some unfortunate things have happened, but today we were able to put together a full race.”

Carl Edwards, the winner of the Michigan Nationwide race was fifth, followed by Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Brian Vickers.

Polesitter Kurt Busch was 11th.

Despite his brush with the wall, Dale Jr. finished on the lead lap in the 21st spot.

Both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had early problems. Gordon was able to finish 17th, while Johnson was one lap down in 27th.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 15 of 36: 1. Edwards-532, 2. Harvick-512, 3. Earnhardt- 505, 4. Kyle Busch-503, 5. Johnson-503, 6. Kenseth-491, 7. Kurt Busch-491, 8. Newman 456, 9. Hamlin-455, 10. Bowyer-455, 11. Stewart-454, 12. J. Gordon-438

Roush teams finish first, second and fifth

Carl Edwards passed teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with only nine laps remaining to post his third victory of the season in a dominating Roush Fenway effort in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Roush Fenway teams led 101 of 125 laps, with all three of its Ford Mustangs leading during the event. Stenhouse went on to finish second and Trevor Bayne finished fifth.

“Ricky (Stenhouse) drove his heart out – that guy is unbelievable, just an unreal driver,” said Edwards. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to get him, but it looked like his car got a little tight there at the end.”

It was the fifth win for the organization at MIS and the fifth win for Roush Fenway this season in the Nationwide Series. It is Edwards’ third NNS win this season.

“We just got too tight there at the end,” said Stenhouse. “It was a good onetwo finish for Jack and everyone at Roush-Yates Engines. This track definitely needs a motor and we have it. This was a great day for Ford, we wanted a one-two-three finish, but three cars in the topfive and one-two is pretty good.”

Kyle Busch won a heated battle against polesitter Paul Menard for the third position, with Menard rolling across the stripe in fourth

They have definitely picked their game at Roush Fenway Racing,” said Bayne. “Jack told me that last year when I came over and he’s keeping his promises, because these things have been pretty much unstoppable. Hopefully we’ll be the one sitting in victory lane soon, but I had a front row seat watching Ricky and Carl battle it out for the win there.”

Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Elliott Sadler, Brad Keselowski and Jason Leffler were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-10 leaders after 15 of 34: 1. Stenhouse-525, 2. Sadler-523, 3. Sorenson-521, 4. Allgaier-508, 5. Almirola- 471, 6. Leffler-471, 7. K. Wallace 441, 8. S. Wallace-415, 9. Scott-393, 10. Annett-371

Is Edwards about to leave Ford

For several weeks there have been rumors that Carl Edwards might leave his Ford ride with Roush Fenway for another team if the price was right. This past week Edwards has been linked to Joe Gibbs Racing, which currently has three drivers: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano.

JGR President J.D. Gibbs acknowledged that the organization would be interested in talking to Edwards if sponsorship could be acquired for a fourth team. However, there is concern as to how long Logano will remain with the organization if he doesn’t step up his track performance.

Fox Sports reported that Roush Fenway president Steve Newman called the Edwards’ negotiation “a slow and steady process.” Both Roush and Ford have worked diligently to entice Edwards to remain in the blue-oval camp but are starting to feel the pressure from Toyota.

“We have constant conversations with Carl,” Newmark said. “I still remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll get something done, but as we’ve talked about before, the process that we’re going through, we want to make sure that we have everything in order going forward and Carl’s main focus is on making sure he’s going to a place where he can win championships.”

Newmark said he understands that Edwards is shopping the market and “has no issue with him engaging in discussions.”

Edwards is a great race car driver as well as a sharp businessman. From my standpoint, I don’t see him leaving Roush because of the improvements they have made in their cars. But like all drivers, Edwards will go with the team that offers him the most hope to get his first Cup championship.

Weekend racing: The Cup teams are at the 2-mile road course in Sonoma, Calif. The Nationwide teams travel to the 4.50-mile Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., for the first time. The Truck teams do not race again until July 7.

Sat., June 25, Nationwide 200, race 16 of 34, starting time: 5:30 p.m.; TV: ESPN.

Sun., June 26, Sprint Cup Toyota Save/Mart 350, race 16 of 36, starting time: 3 p.m.; TV: TNT.

Racing trivia question: Which is the newest NASCAR track?

Last week’s question: Which two NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks are road courses? Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. and Watkins Glen, N.Y..

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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