2011-09-08 / Sports

Edwards Takes Atlanta Nationwide Race

By Gerald Hodges

Carl Edwards Carl Edwards HAMPTON, Ga. – Polesitter Carl Edwards held off Kyle Busch during the final 10 laps of Saturday night’s Nationwide race and, despite a pit-road penalty early in the race, notched his sixth series victory of the year and the 35th of his career.

“That was the hardest we could race out there,” Edwards said. “I can’t believe we got the pole and the win; what a heck of a race. It was a lot of fun. This track is as good as it gets. It was a blast being able to race Kevin, Kyle, and Kasey like we did.”

Busch, who chased Edwards to the checkered flag after passing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for second place on Lap 186 of 195, was the runner up, .697 seconds behind Edwards.

Ricky Stenhouse, the series points leader, came home third, followed by Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Justin Allgaier, Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Jason Leffler, and Elliott Sadler.

Top-10 points leaders after 26 of 34: 1. Stenhouse-909, 2. Sadler-896, 3. Sorenson- 869, 4. Almirola-845, 5. Allgaier 840, 6. Leffler-811, 7. K. Wallace-747, 8. S. Wallace-737, 9. Scott-724, 10. Annett-711

Hornaday gets 49th truck victory

Ron Hornaday Jr. used fuel-mileage strategy to win Friday night’s truck race at Atlanta. He beat teammatefor a-day Clint Bowyer to the finish line by 1.596 seconds to win his second race of the season and the 49th of his career.

“At the start of the race somebody checked up, and I went to the right and I got the front fender in,” said Hornaday. “We just kept on taping it up.”

“I told them (the crew), ‘We don’t have the best truck, but we can win by fuel mileage,’ and (crew chief) Jeff (Hensley) made that call right there. … I’ll take ’em any way I can get ’em. That’s cool. Everything’s gone wrong the whole year, so something’s got to go right at least once.”

The four- time series champion stopped for fuel on Lap 75 of 130 and immediately began saving gas. Bowyer, who was the class of the field, had to stop for fuel on Lap 112. Kyle Busch ran third, followed by Blake Feese and Ryan Newman. Austin Dillon, Matt Crafton, polesitter Ricky Carmichael, Todd Bodine and James Buescher rounded out the top-10.

Top-10 leaders after 17 of 25: 1. Buescher-586, 2. Sauter- 576, 3. Peters-574, 4. Dillon- 571, 5. Hornaday-540, 6. Coulter 537, 7. Crafton-535, 8. Whitt-531, 9. Kligerman-526, 10. Bodine-524

Earnhardt at Hendrick until 2017

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports have agreed to a five-year contract extension that will keep Earnhardt behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevy through the end of the 2017 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

“We’re excited to have everything formalized and announced,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Junior and I had a handshake agreement months ago, and we let other people work out the finer points from there. It was as simple and smooth as it gets. My feelings haven’t changed since the day he first signed with us. I’m committed as ever to putting him in the best possible situation to be successful and compete for wins and championships.”

Earnhardt, 36, has earned 18 Sprint Cup race wins since joining the circuit full-time in 2000. The Kannapolis, N.C., native has won the Daytona 500, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and two Nationwide Series championships. In NASCAR’s national touring series, he has a combined 41 points-paying victories.

“It’s great to have it all wrapped up so quickly and far in advance,” said Earnhardt, who currently is ninth in the Sprint Cup standings. “Rick and I were on the same page from the first time we talked about it, so there wasn’t any sense in waiting. There were never any questions or hesitations from either of us. It was just, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ I’m really happy at Hendrick Motorsports and enjoy working with everyone here. The team’s been very competitive this season, and we’re all excited about the direction of things.”

Meanwhile Richard Childress Racing, another powerhouse, has struggled since the beginning of the season. RCR opened the season with high hopes, but with one race left before the Chase begins, only one of their four drivers, Kevin Harvick, is locked in.

Clint Bowyer is without a win and has only one more chance to get it done. He needs to either win at Richmond, or hope there is a total collapse by Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart.

Paul Menard’s Cinderella like win at Indianapolis made it appear his team was ready to rock and roll, but they have fizzled worse than a wet Labor Day firecracker.

Jeff Burton, the fourth Childress driver, has only one top-10 finish and is 24th in the standings.

It’s beginning to look like RCR will have to wait until next year.

Roush Racing will take a big hit in 2012. UPS plans to cut back dramatically on its support of the team’s No. 6 Ford driven by David Ragan in 2012. The reports this past weekend in Atlanta have the company dropping its fullseason primary sponsorship of the No. 6 car and sponsoring 4-8 races, perhaps on Carl Edwards’ No. 99 Ford.

Weekend racing: The Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams are at the .75-mile Richmond International Speedway for the 26th and last race before the Chase begins.

Fri., Sept 9, Nationwide Virginia College 250, race 27 of 34, Starting time: 7:30 p.m.; TV: ESPN2.

Sat., Sept. 10, Sprint Cup Pistachio 400, race 26 of 36, Starting time: 7:30 p.m.; TV: ABC.

Racing trivia question: How many drivers will be in this year’s Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship?

Last week’s question: Who was the first Truck Series driver to win four consecutive races? Answer. Ron Hornaday.

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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