Edwards Retakes Sprint Cup Points Lead
LOUDON, NH - Races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway often come down to fuel mileage and today's race was no exception. Carl Edwards made his final pit stop with 84 laps to go and was going to be five laps short of making it to the end, but he was able to save enough fuel to make it to the finish line as cars all around him ran out of gas. He finished the race in 13th place and regained the point lead.
Edwards started the race 15th and struggled with the handling early in the day. He fell back as far as 22nd after the first 100 laps, but a two-tire pit stop on lap 145 was just what he needed to get the No. 99 Ortho Ford into the top 10.
The car was better on the short runs and Edwards was up to third by lap 156. He stayed out during a series of cautions to maintain his track position and scored a point for leading lap 217 as he came to pit road for his final stop of the day. A four-tire stop sent him back to 14th place as many other teams only took right-side tires. In the event of a late-race caution, crew chief Bob Osborne wanted to take four tires early so he could take two at the end if need be.
As several more cautions slowing the race Edwards was back up in third place by lap 245. With several of the drivers near him in the points running into trouble throughout the day, the crew decided the best strategy was to conserve fuel and capitalize on everyone else's bad day.
With 41 laps to go Edwards was told he needed to save five laps of fuel to make it to the end. He slowed his pace which cost him some track position, but in the end it paid off in the big picture. He finished the race 13th as several cars ran out of gas coming off turn four toward the checkered flag.
Ryan Newman won race followed by Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson. Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10.
"That was a very fun race," Edwards said. "It is fitting we have Aflac for a sponsor because I feel like I was buying insurance at the end. I was letting those guys go by one point at a time thinking that if we had a green-white-checkered we could win this thing. I knew we could lose more than we could gain there. It is hard to back up like that but it worked out.
"It is really big to have a solid day here. It is important for all the mechanics and engineers and stuff like that that you learn, but also for your confidence to know that when we come back here we can play the strategy game and fuel mileage. We actually passed a couple cars so it was good. I think it is pretty big that we regained the point lead. There is a lot of pride in that. It was a really good day, I am very proud of it right now."
Edwards and the No. 99 team regained the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings by seven points over Jimmie Johnson. After a weekend off, the next race will be Sunday, July 31 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Coverage will begin at 2:00 p.m. (CT) on ESPN.