(NASCAR)—Columbia driver Carl Edwards knew what he had to do with ten laps left to protect his chance to win NASCAR’s top championship. Joey Logano knew what he had to do to gain the chance for himself. What happened next determined that neither would realize that dream.
“It was the race of my life up to then,” Edwards said later.
Edwards dipped low on the Homestead-Miami track going into the first turn on a restart to block Logano, who was trying to go deep inside. “I just pushed the issue as far as I could because I figured that was the race there,” he said. Logano agreed: “We’re racing for the championship; that’s the race.” Logano’s right front fender tapped the left side of Edwards’car’s rear bumper, sending Edwards into the pit wall….
….and sliding across the track where Kasey Kahne’s car lifted Edwards’ car onto Kahne’s hood…
…before Edwards’ battered car can to a stop. Fluids that leaked from his car and several others involved in the crash caused the race to be stopped for more than half an hour to clean up the track.
They both used the same words afterwards: “That’s just racing,” and Edwards told NBC, “I couldn’t go to bed tonight and think that I gave him that lane.’
He spoke with NBC after being released from the track medical center:
Up to that time, Edwards had run in the top five throughout most of the race and was ahead of the other three contenders, including Logano, for the Cup championship. Edwards’ teammate, Kyle Busch, had shown the speed of a contender up to that time. The fourth driver in the championship hunt, Jimmie Johnson, had started at the end of the forty-car field because of unapproved chances in his car’s body before the race and had worked his way into the top ten but did not appear to have the speed to run with the other three.
Edwards was out of the race. Logano had some body damage that was repaired during a pit stop. The scrambled standings because of the crash helped Johnson move toward the front. He grabbed the lead after another incident pushed the race into overtime, and beat Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Logano, Joplin driver Jamie McMurray, and Busch to the checkered flag.
The win gave Johnson his seventh championship, tying him with NASCAR greats Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. He is the youngest of the three, at 41, to get there. He gained his 80th career victory, which ranks him seventh on the all-time wins list. He also has finished second in the points twice. Petty did it six times.
Only two other drivers in NASCAR history have finished second more times than Edwards (2) without winning a title: Mark Martin (5) and James Hylton (2). Edwards finished fourth in the final-four standings, the sixth time in his thirteen-year career at NASCAR’s top level that he has finished in the top five in points. His 29 career wins puts him fifth on the list of drivers with the most race wins but no championships.
“This team is going to be on fire next year; you watch out. It’s gonna be awesome,” he said as he prepared to watch the crowning of the new champion.
It’s only eighty-nine days before competition resumes for Edwards with an all-star race at Daytona on February 18. It’s ninety-four days before qualifying races for the Daytona 500 and ninety-seven days before the flag drops on the first points race of 2017.
(photo credits, Getty Images/NASCAR)