LONG POND, Pa. – With 70 laps left – theoretically – in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500, Carl Edwards and his crew chief, Bob Osborne, were on top of the team’s pit box arguing about who had fouled up.
“We were trying to blame each other,” Edwards said of the discussion, which centered around their decision to make a pit stop with light rain falling and the race under the yellow flag. “I had to leave the pit box. I was afraid he was going to punch me in the neck.”
A couple of hours later, Osborne was hugging that same neck after that pit call and a very strong No. 99 Ford carried Edwards to his fourth victory of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
“It was a little stressful at moments,” Osborne admitted.
Edwards was leading when the rain started. As the cars rolled around behind the pace car, the driver and crew chief were discussing whether they thought it would rain enough to halt the race for good or only temporarily interrupt it.
Team owner Jack Roush said if it had been his call he probably would have had Edwards stay out to protect his track position. But Roush said that with Roush Fenway Racing that call is on the crew chief’s shoulders.
“I was planning on pitting,” Osborne said. But he wanted input from the driver. “Carl said, ‘What would you do if you thought we would get the track cleaned off and keep running?’ He said, ‘I would come in for two tires.’”
Edwards said he and Osborne were both “about 51 percent on the side of coming in.” So Edwards stopped, leading a large group behind him.
Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin all were among a group of 19 cars that did not stop, figuring the rain would either halt things there or eventually shorten the event.
When it did start raining harder, NASCAR brought the cars to pit road. The more it rained, the more Edwards and Osborne second-guessed themselves – well, actually, each other.
“Carl and I, we argue on a regular basis,” Osborne said. “We argue, we get mad, we walk away and then we come back together and cooler heads prevail. We have arguments and discussions, but then we have handshakes and hugs and we come to terms with what we want to do. Ninety percent of the time it works out for us.”
This would wind up falling within that majority. After just more than 41 minutes the race resumed. Another light shower passed quickly during a subsequent yellow, and when Kahne pitted on Lap 185 and Martin came a lap later, Edwards inherited the lead.
By that time he was way ahead of second-place Tony Stewart. But there was one more bit of stress to endure. Osborne came over the team’s radio to ask Edwards how much fuel the driver had been saving.
The need to conserve fuel was news to Edwards.
“I said, ‘None!’” Edwards said.
It was OK, Osborne said later. By his calculations, Edwards had enough fuel to go 201 laps. He’d only brought the subject up in case there was a green-white-checkered finish, and since Edwards was so far in front of Stewart he could afford to back off to pad their cushion.
Edwards’ engine was still churning he took the white flag. “This IS the final lap?” he asked on the team’s radio. After he’d come to the checkered flag nearly four seconds ahead of Stewart, he checked one more time. “We are the winner, right?” he asked.
He was. But while everything worked out for Edwards and Osborne, there were those who fell on the other side of the equation. Jimmie Johnson held on for third despite having to coast out of the final turn. Jeff Gordon wound up 10th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th as they ran out, too.
Kahne made it back to seventh and Martin wound up eight after having to make their late stops.
The biggest hits, though, were suffered by the Busch brothers.
Kurt was leading when he ran out of gas on Lap 162, and he finished 38th.
Points leader Kyle Busch, who was on the same cycle as Edwards and Stewart, coasted to pit road two laps from the finish and couldn’t get his car restarted after having fuel added. He wound up 35th and then was dropped one more spot to 36th by NASCAR since he wasn’t able to serve a pit-road pass-through penalty for a commitment line violation before the race ended.