Edwards wins second straight race

Published 8:02 am Monday, November 3, 2008

By By MIKE HARRIS, AP Auto Racing Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas — Carl Edwards won for the second straight week, squeezing a victory out of his last tank of gas. And this time Jimmie Johnson ran out of magic.
The combination of the win by Edwards and a 15th-place finish by Johnson in Sunday’s Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway moved the race winner within 106 points of NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Johnson with just two races remaining.
Although Edwards dominated most of the race, leading 199 of the first 264 laps on the 1.5-mile oval, it was a daring call by crew chief Bob Osborne that got Edwards this win after several other drivers used two-tire strategies to get ahead of him near the finish.
Osborne breathed a sigh of relief after seeing his driver chop 77 points off Johnson’s lead.
But Edwards, who inherited the lead when Greg Biffle pitted with 13 laps remaining, beat runner-up Jeff Gordon by more than 8 seconds — most of the front straightaway — and still had enough gas left to do a couple of victory doughnuts.
Even before he got out of his car, Edwards, who began the day a daunting 183 points behind Johnson in the Chase for the championship, asked Osborne on the radio: ‘‘Hey, where did Jimmie Johnson finish?’’
The answer certainly pleased Edwards, who is hoping to keep Johnson from winning a record-tying third straight Cup title.
A week earlier at Atlanta, Edwards won but was stunned to find out that Johnson had made a late charge to finish second and maintain most of his points margin. Edwards called Johnson ‘‘magic.’’
But this time it was Edwards who pulled off the big finish, winning for the eighth time this season and the 15th time in his career.
Edwards, who also won here in April, had leads of up to a quarter of a lap at times, but fell to seventh when Osborne chose to put on four tires on lap 265 of the 334-lap event.
But, as the laps wound down and the cars ahead of Edwards’ No. 99 Ford began pitting for two tires and gas, Osborne told Edwards to stay on the track.
Still, it was guesswork to the end, with Osborne first telling his driver to conserve fuel because he was going to be a half-lap short, then saying he was four laps short. In the end, he went the final 103.5 miles on his last fill-up.
Johnson, who won this race a year ago, started seventh Sunday but quickly found himself in trouble, struggling with the handling on his No. 48 Chevrolet and sliding back through the field.
Edwards put him a lap down on lap 96 as Johnson slipped all the way to 33rd after a pit stop on lap 113. At that point, with Edwards leading, Johnson was only 64 points ahead. But his team kept making adjustments and Johnson was able to regain some of his lost ground, although he never got back on the lead lap.
Asked about Edwards gambling on running the final 69 laps without pitting, Johnson said, ‘‘I don’t know all the details yet. But, from where I’m sitting, they had a good chance to make up points on us, they didn’t have to win the race.
Told what his lead is now, with races at Phoenix and Homestead remaining, Johnson said, ‘‘It’s still far from over. We’ve got to fight hard, and continue to fight hard. We go to a great track for us next week.’’
Biffle, who finished fifth, also kept his hopes alive in the Chase, remaining third as he came from 185 points behind Johnson to 143 back.
Fourth-place Jeff Burton, who began the day 218 points behind, finished 13th and gained only six points, virtually eliminating him from contention.
Jamie McMurray, who led late in the race before having to pit, wound up third, followed by Clint Bowyer, Biffle and Kyle Busch.