Edwards still missing, wanting win at Kansas
As temperatures climbed and conditions changed, driver lost handling on car
By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
June 06, 2011 11:16 AM, EDT
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Carl Edwards likes winning anywhere, don't get him wrong. But a victory at Kansas Speedway? That's right at the top of his wish list.
When asked earlier this weekend if there's one race he'd like to do over, Edwards never hesitated in his response. It's obvious he has replayed in his mind the finish of the 2008 race here, when he tried and failed to cleanly execute a desperation last-lap, last-corner pass of Jimmie Johnson, slapped the fence and had to settle for second.
The track got a lot slicker and looser. And I didn't recognize it quick enough. We didn't have the car set perfectly for that. That's what got us.
-- CARL EDWARDS
And he came close again Sunday in the STP 400, finishing fifth after leading once for 29 laps and being a factor for much of the day. That makes four consecutive top-10 finishes at what he considers his home track.
"I am a little disappointed in fifth," Edwards said. "It's nice to be disappointed in fifth. A year ago, we would have loved to have had a fifth-place finish, or at least I would have. Now we're running well enough to where we're leading laps at just about every race, we're extending our points lead, we've got a strong pit crew, strong engines, the cars are great. Hopefully we can continue this and get some more wins before the Chase."
Edwards' seventh top-five -- and 10th top-10 -- of the season allowed him to build his lead to 40 points over runner-up Jimmie Johnson at the halfway point of NASCAR's "regular season." That's as many top-fives as he recorded in all of 2009 and two fewer than what he scored in 2010 when Ford's next generation racing engine seemed to lift Roush Fenway's stable out of their doldrums during the second half of the year.
Starting seventh, Edwards advanced up through the field to take the lead on Lap 84 and believed he had one of the best cars during the first half of the race. But he admitted, as the temperatures went up and the conditions changed, he lost the handling on his No. 99 Ford.
"We didn't respond to the changes as well as we could have," Edwards said. "The track got a lot slicker and looser. And I didn't recognize it quick enough. We didn't have the car set perfectly for that. That's what got us."
In addition, Edwards said he struggled on the final restart following a caution for debris on Lap 163. Despite that, Edwards was strong enough to be running third behind Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon during the final green-flag run.
"I went backwards in a hurry and I thought we had to really gather it up," Edwards said. "We did that and made it up to fifth."
While others were working pit road strategies that allowed them to stay on the track, Edwards needed a caution flag to keep from pitting under green. It never came, and Edwards pitted for the final time on Lap 248 knowing a top-five finish was probably the best he could hope for.
"That's racing, man," Edwards said. "This thing could go any number of ways. If there had been a caution at the end, it would have been a whole different race and we might have been able to get to Victory Lane."
But Edwards was enthused by what he learned about racing in the Kansas late spring heat, and vowed to be better the next time.
"The banking's not so high that you're on the knife's edge all the time," Edwards said. "You can slide the car. It's kind of forgiving. You can really manhandle the thing around here and have some fun. That's the greatest thing about today. I can't wait to come back for this race next year."
But for Edwards, it's winning that matters. And he'll have to wait until the series returns in the fall to try again.
"I really wanted to win and it is really hard to win here," Edwards said.