Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Dog helps Wheeler choose Edwards to win All-Star race
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With the help of a back-flipping dog, Humpy Wheeler made Carl Edwards the favorite to win the All-Star race by naming the acrobatic driver his pick to win Saturday night's event.
Wheeler, president of Lowe's Motor Speedway and the P.T. Barnum of NASCAR, staged a humorous dog show on Wednesday in downtown Charlotte to reveal his annual All-Star selection. He was an expert prognosticator when he first started making the picks, as Wheeler was correct on six of seven winners from 1989-95. But he's been right only twice since, correctly selecting Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2000 and Johnson in 2003.
He also chose Edwards in 2006, but he finished fourth that year.
"I was running [winner] Jimmie Johnson and those guys down and I hit the fence," Edwards said by phone from his home in Missouri. "I made a mistake running for the million [dollars] and I'm not going to do it again."
Wheeler, who makes his selection show an annual production, used dogs this year he believed shared characteristics of several of NASCAR's top drivers. He had a greyhound (sleek) represent Johnson, a Doberman Pinscher (fearless) for Kyle Busch and an American pit bull (stocky and agile) for Tony Stewart.
Then he introduced a small dog named Princess that mimicked Edwards' traditional back flip that the driver uses to celebrate his victories. Busch, winner of two of the past three Cup events and eight total races spanning NASCAR's top three series, is a popular pick, but choosing Edwards isn't exactly a stretch.
Edwards has three victories this season, two of which came on 1.5-mile tracks similar to Lowe's layout. And he had the car to beat in Atlanta, another track similar to Lowe's, but his motor failed and Busch went on to win the race.
"He's a racer's racer in the mold of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Cale Yarborough," Wheeler said of Edwards. "He'll put that 99 car in places where nobody else will go. He has got a fire burning in his heart that few drivers have."
Wheeler also named Stewart, who is winless so far this season, his dark-horse selection.
"He can smell the big money," Wheeler said of the $1 million payout to the winner. "He could pull a surprise and take a bite out of the field."
Edwards expects Busch, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. will be among his main contenders for the win. But he also isn't counting out teammate Greg Biffle, who led 95 laps at Darlington last Saturday night before a broken timing belt led to his last-place finish. He then blasted his Roush Fenway Racing team for giving him faulty equipment.
"He's mad right now," Edwards said. "He's angry and he wants to win a race after the other night."