FORT WORTH, Texas - Carl Edwards’ dominating victory in Sunday’s Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was nearly as predictable as the grousing by fellow drivers after the race.
Apparently, Edwards’ No. 99 Ford team is the only team with a firm grasp on winning at larger tracks in Sprint Cup racing.
Edwards has won three times this year, at California, at Las Vegas and here. He likely would have prevailed at Atlanta, too, had his engine not expired with 50 laps to go. Edwards also had the fastest car in Saturday’s practices at this 1.5-mile track and was prerace pick of virtually everyone in the garage to win.
Edwards backed up those expectations, leading 122 of the final 125 laps including the final 107. So it was no surprise that he was a staunch defender of the new car.
“If I was running 15th, I might have a different opinion,” Edwards said. “Maybe it’s just my car, but I feel like I can make a difference out there lap to lap. I can change what that stopwatch says every lap. That’s cool. That’s what it’s about. It’s fun.”
But Edwards formed a committee of one in taking that position.
Jimmie Johnson finished second and said the car was “disappointing to drive” and said he thinks NASCAR should change some rules to give the cars more front downforce. Kyle Busch finished third and flatly declined to answer a question about the quality of the day’s racing.
Edwards, whose Roush Fenway Racing team seems to be meeting the new car’s challenges quite nicely, stood firm.
“I’ve heard people say that the races are boring,” he said. “People always have something to complain about – it’s too hard to drive and you don’t get enough side-by-side racing.
“The fact is these are the 43 best drivers in the world. The cars have 900 horsepower and run 200 mph. The track is slippery and the tires are slippery. That’s a spectacle and that’s what it’s supposed to be.
“It’s not supposed to be easy for everyone. It’s not supposed to be like driving down the interstate. I am tired of hearing people complain and the media making up stories about how terrible it is and all of that stuff.
"This is auto racing. There are going to be people who are faster. We’re going to have days when we can’t keep up because the car is too hard to drive. Somebody’s going to win.
"That’s racing. It just makes it more exciting to win. It means more.”
Edwards swept past Busch on Lap 215 to grab the lead, but Busch said he believed Edwards could have led every lap.
“Oh yeah,” Edwards said with a laugh afterward, “I could have gone a LOT faster.” He then left it open to interpretation whether he was kidding.
Once he took command, Edwards still had to endure two restarts in the final 50 laps, one after a debris caution on Lap 295 and another after a yellow for Martin Truex Jr.’s expiring engine set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Those proved to be little more than a nuisance.
“The restart at the end might not have looked exciting to the people watching,” Edwards protested, “but it was exciting in the race car.”
It did get interesting off the final turn behind the front three. The top five had stayed out on the final yellow, but the other five cars on the lead lap got tires.
Clint Bowyer, with two new tires, ran up to challenge Denny Hamlin for fourth and their cars made contact. Bowyer slid into the wall and wound up 10th.
Ryan Newman, on four fresh tires, moved up to fourth amid that scramble with Hamlin fifth and points leader Jeff Burton sixth. The right rear of Newman’s No. 12 Dodge was found to be higher than the NASCAR-allowed maximum in postrace inspection, setting up a likely penalty later this week.
Edwards’ team was penalized 100 points after the Las Vegas win for having an open lid on the box covering its oil tank. That, plus the blown engine at Atlanta, has him 10th in points 184 behind Burton.
The Las Vegas penalties also included a six-race suspension for crew chief Bob Osborne, leaving Chris Andrews and Robbie Reiser sharing the duties for Edwards’ team in the interim. Edwards dedicated Sunday’s victory to Osborne.
“I know Bob wants to be at the race track,” Edwards said. “The number one thing I told him, and I firmly believe it, is that as good as we are right now we’re going to get better when we get Bob back.”
That should make the teams chasing Edwards even happier.