September 23, 2007
DOVER, Del. (cbssportsline.com/AP) -- Carl Edwards dodged the smoke, the skids and the wrecks to win his first Chase race in two seasons and vault five spots in the Chase for the Championship standings.
Edwards' lead late in Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway helped him avoid a massive wreck with 14 laps left that took out Chase contenders Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and a few other drivers in the 400-mile race on the concrete track.
Kurt Busch's car hit the wall on the straightaway and ricocheted back on the track and into Reed Sorenson. The big crash left Truex's crumpled car on the track while the race was red-flagged for nearly 12 minutes.
The cars can be repaired. The damage done in the points race in the pursuit for the Nextel Cup title might be too much to overcome for some of the drivers.
Matt Kenseth's car was smoking and Denny Hamlin was fuming. Johnson and Kevin Harvick had tire woes. One by one, drivers in the Chase dropped back and dropped out.
That left Edwards as about the only Chase drivers left standing in the race that had 13 caution periods. He won for the third time this season and made a Monster Mile-sized pass in the standings, from eighth to third.
"We've got to keep running like we've been running," Edwards said in Victory Lane. "It's a big win. A lot of guys had bad luck today."
Jeff Gordon seized the points lead, with Tony Stewart second. Johnson, who led the standings entering the day, fell to fourth.
"It was a crazy day at Dover and somehow we came out of it with the points lead," Gordon said.
Once the second race in the 10-race Chase was over, the points differential among the top seven drivers was minuscule, guaranteeing heated jostling for positions down the stretch.
Edwards, who also leads the Busch Series, won the 100th career race for owner Jack Roush.
Greg Biffle was second and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third. Martin and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five in a Car of Tomorrow race.
Kenseth, Edward's Roush Fenway Racing teammate, had the car to beat all race and was absolutely dominating, even with an alternator problem earlier in the race. He was running up front until a busted valve cooked his car and his shot at victory. Kenseth went from running for a victory to just hoping he could salvage a top-10 finish.
But seconds after the race went back to green with 27 laps left, smoke blew out the back of the car and he was forced out of the race.
Kenseth, the 2003 champion, still has never won a Chase race.
"We were in a good spot to win the race and we were in a good spot to gain some points for the championship," Kenseth said.
It just wasn't to be. He was just added to the list of top Chase drivers who had their title hopes all but finished.
Hamlin wrecked with Kyle Petty and the two drivers got into a brief skirmish in the garage. Hamlin's stuck in 12th place in the standings, effectively ending his bid for a championship.
Clint Bowyer followed his first career victory last week at New Hampshire with a 12th-place finish and fell from fourth to sixth in the standings.
Driver Points Deficit
1. Jeff Gordon 5,340 ---
2. Tony Stewart 5,338 -2
3. Carl Edwards 5,337 -3
4. Jimmie Johnson 5,336 -4
5. Kyle Busch 5,330 -10
The Associated Press News Service