Short­ened race ends Ed­wards’ Chase dreams at Phoenix

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PHOENIX: Carl Ed­wards drove around in a hold­ing pat­tern as the rain started to fall, ready to wash away his Chase chances at any sec­ond. “We can’t let it end like this,” Ed­wards told his team on the ra­dio.

Un­for­tu­nately for them, it did. Five points from earn­ing a spot in the fi­nale of the Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship, Ed­wards came up just short last night at Phoenix In­ter­na­tional Race­way when the race was called af­ter 219 laps due to rain.

In­stead of rac­ing for a long-awaited cham­pi­onship next week in Miami, Ed­wards will be play­ing out the string on a solid-just-not-great sea­son. “Just very dis­ap­point­ing for this whole Stan­ley Toy­ota team, how hard they’ve worked all year to come down to some­thing as sim­ple as a rain out,” said Dar­ian Grubb, Ed­wards’ crew chief. “We feel like we could have raced our way back in there and had a shot at it.”

Ed­wards en­tered the Phoenix race fifth in the Chase stand­ings be­hind Jeff Gor­don, Kyle Busch, Kevin Har­vick and Martin Truex Jr. Gor­don was al­ready in the fi­nale at Home­stead-Miami Speedway af­ter win­ning at Martinsville two weeks ago.

That left seven driv­ers vy­ing for three spots. A rain de­lay that lasted nearly seven hours in­cluded nu­mer­ous trips back and forth from the garage added to the pres­sure of the race and the Chase. Ed­wards started fourth Sun­day and lin­gered around the lead most of the night un­til a cau­tion came out with about 120 laps left. Crews took a while to get the track cleaned up, lead­ing to an ex­tended cau­tion, and NASCAR of­fi­cials kept the driv­ers cir­cling in a yel­low-flagged hold­ing pat­tern as more rain started to move into the area.

Tough sit­u­a­tion

The race was red-flagged af­ter sev­eral laps and the cars were parked on pit road, with NASCAR of­fi­cials telling the driv­ers not to go too far in case the track could be dried quickly. In­stead, a down­pour fol­lowed and the race was called with 93 laps left to the sched­uled fin­ish. Dale Earn­hardt Jr won the race, with Har­vick sec­ond, Joey Logano third and Kyle Busch fourth. Har­vick, Busch and Truex, who fin­ished 14th, ad­vanced on points.

Ed­wards and his team were left won­der­ing what might have been had the race con­tin­ued. “We were still five points out, just like we were five points com­ing in,” Grubb said. “We knew that was go­ing to be a tough sit­u­a­tion, but it ended up that it bit us and I just hate it for th­ese guys.”

Team Penske was left out in the cold rain af­ter nearly lock­ing both driv­ers into the fi­nale the past two weeks. Brad Ke­selowski had his berth into the fi­nale snatched away last week at Texas when he was passed by Jim­mie John­son in the clos­ing laps and en­tered yes­ter­day’s race sixth in the stand­ings.

Start­ing 18th yes­ter­day, he lin­gered around the top 10 most of the night and was ninth when the race was called. That left him eight points out of the fi­nal four. “I don’t think it mat­ters what’s fair,” Ke­selowski said. “It mat­ters what en­ter­tains the fans and if the fans are happy, that’s what it’s all about.”

Logano had hoped to en­ter­tain them with a vic­tory af­ter be­ing in­ten­tion­ally wrecked by Matt Kenseth while in the lead at Martinsville two weeks ago. He had a strong run at Phoenix, putting him­self in po­si­tion to win, right be­hind Earn­hardt and Har­vick. He never got a chance to track them down on the restart.

“That’s the way this game is played,” Logano said. “That’s the way this Chase is.” Busch put him­self into a tough spot at the drop of the open­ing green flag, sent to the back for jump­ing the start. He worked he way to­ward the front and was sev­enth when the race was called, but need a win to ad­vance. “I had no rea­son to jump the start, no rea­son to get ex­cited,” Busch said. “We had 312 laps to go race to­day.” — AP

AVON­DALE: Kurt Busch waves to the crowd dur­ing driver in­tro­duc­tions be­fore the NASCAR Sprint Cup Se­ries auto race at Phoenix In­ter­na­tional Race­way, Sun­day, Nov. 15, 2015, in Avon­dale, Ariz. Busch is one of seven driv­ers look­ing to clinch a spot in the fi­nal Chase for the Cup Cham­pi­onship race in Home­stead, Fla.

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