LONG POND, Pa. – Carl Edwards turned his first laps at
Pocono Raceway playing a video game.
He paid attention, and when it came time for the real thing,
nobody was better.
Edwards raced to his second Nextel
Cup victory of the year Sunday, easily adjusting to a new gearing
rule and avoiding the tire woes that plagued other drivers.
"It's a NASCAR game that you can buy on the shelf," he said.
"I've got a steering wheel and a clutch. Coming to a new track and
spending time on one of those things really helps."
The Missouri driver, who celebrated his first NASCAR Nextel Cup
victory three months ago in Atlanta with a backflip from the window
of his car, did it again Sunday.
His Ford led 45 of 200 laps and beat the Chevrolet of Brian
Vickers in a race that ended under caution on the 2.5-mile
triangle. Edwards took the lead for the fourth and final time on
lap 187. Vickers led six times for 121 laps, both race highs.
While he was winning, Edwards lost the points lead in the Busch
Series because a rainout Saturday night in Nashville prevented him
from racing there Sunday. Reed Sorenseon took the Busch lead and
Edwards fell to fourth.
When he didn't race in Nashville, Edwards jumped on a plane
piloted by car owner Jack Roush, who nearly died a few years ago
when he crashed into a lake in Alabama. The flight proved back more
adventurous than the race because an airport near the track was
"I stayed up until 4 in the morning practicing missed
approaches with Jack Roush, which, by the way are scarier than the
tunnel turn," Edwards said. "My heart was pounding."
Eventually, Roush diverted to Scranton-Wilkes-Barre
International and landed without incident.
"I have more and more trouble getting people to fly with me,"
Roush said. ``Getting them to fly with me the first time is not a
problem. But getting them to go with me a second time is an
Edwards might be among the reluctant after his experience in the
"Trust is a big thing," he said. "You're looking at that
gauge and it says you're 500 feet above the ground, but do you
Edwards, who moved from ninth to fourth in the Nextel Cup
standings, set a Pocono record for winning from the deepest in the
field. He started 29th. Terry Labonte held the record by winning
from the 27th position in 1995.
It was the seventh victory for Roush Racing in 14 races this
season but its first here since the team entered the sport in 1988.
Jack Roush's cars had 11 previous second-place finishes at Pocono.
Roush Racing, led by Greg Biffle with four victories, and
Hendrick Motorsports, have combined to win all but two of the
Jimmie Johnson, who swept the races here last year and was
trying to become only the third driver to win three in a row on the
mountaintop kept the points lead, and Biffle remained second.
The gearing rule being used at certain events was in force,
making this the first Pocono race in many years without drivers
downshifting to gain quick acceleration exiting the sharp turns.
The rule is designed to cut rpms and reduce the number of engine
There was just one of them among the 43 cars in this race on a
hot and humid day when cut tires were the main problem for the
drivers. Both Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in numerous
times. Most of the cut tires were on the left front wheels, due
perhaps to setups used to counter the lack of shifting.
Edwards had some help others lacked. Most of it came from
Michael "Fatback" McSwain, crew chief for the team of Ricky Rudd,
which buys its motors from Roush-Yates Engines.
"Fatback stopped me about halfway through the race," Roush
said. "He told me to tell Carl to beware of the curbs. Ricky
figured that whenever he bumped the curb he was hurting his
Pocono and the road courses in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Sonoma,
Calif., are the only venues where downshifting made the cars go
faster through the turns. Drivers will continue to change gears on
the road circuits.
In an era where speeds continue to accelerate at most NASCAR
tracks, Michael Waltrip's qualifying lap for this race was 169.052,
down from Kahne's year-old track record 172.533.
Vickers said his only chance to beat Edwards was to be in front
"We were better than those guys on the short runs, but not on
the long runs," Vickers said. "We would have had to beat them out
of the pits."
The winner averaged 129.176 mph in a race slowed seven time by
31 laps of caution.