Edwards' high-risk 'banzai move' not enough to derail Johnson

9/29/2008 - NASCAR

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- So much for playing it safe. Carl Edwards was going to win one for the home folks or wreck trying.

He wrecked trying, but still managed to finish second to Jimmie Johnson Sunday in a wow-factor last lap to the Camping World RV 400.

The crowd at Kansas Speedway saw the top two men in the Chase go all out for the checkered flag with less than half a lap remaining.

Edwards was almost a full second behind Johnson with three laps to go. No chance to catch the No. 48 Chevrolet, or so it appeared. But Edwards decided to gamble.

"I moved up to the very top of the track and it was way faster," Edwards said. "But I was only 10 inches from the fence, so Jimmie went up and was able to block me."

Time to try risky option No. 2 -- the slide job.

Entering Turn 3 of the last lap, Edwards gunned it and turned left down the track and inside of Johnson. Edwards zoomed by Johnson heading to Turn 4, but knew it would come at a price.

The momentum and angle of the move causes the car to slide back up the banking toward the wall. Edwards made solid contact with the barrier, but kept control of the car as they headed down the frontstretch for the last time.

"It was my banzai move," Edwards said. "I planned on hitting the wall, but I didn't plan on it slowing me down that much. It didn't work out quite as well as it does on the video game."

Meanwhile, Johnson played it smart, watching Edwards go by him before sliding underneath the No. 99 Ford and back into the lead. Edwards went from scraping the wall all the way down to the apron, hoping to grab enough momentum to catch Johnson at the line, but it was too late.

"I feel sorry for my guys at the shop about tearing up the race car," Edwards said. "But I really wanted to win this race more than any other on the schedule."

Edwards grew up in Columbia, Mo., a two-hour drive from the Kansas Speedway track. He's never won on the 1.5-mile oval.

Neither had Johnson, whose victory enabled him to flip-flop spots with Edwards in the Chase standings, moving 10 points ahead of Edwards after three of 10 playoff events.

Johnson said he was surprised Edwards got close enough to challenge him at the end, but he knew what was coming when Edwards dove under him.

"I thought it was pretty cool to see him bomb it in there and bounce it off the wall," Johnson said. "I knew instantly there was no damn way he was making the turn. But when I saw him pound the wall and keep going, I thought, 'Man, he's serious about getting this win. I better get on it.'"

It was my banzai move. I planned on hitting the wall, but I didn't plan on it slowing me down that much. It didn't work out quite as well as it does on the video game.

-- Carl Edwards

He did, dodging Edwards' slide job maneuver in textbook fashion, something every dirt-tracker learns racing a few Saturday nights at the local short tracks. But they aren't doing it at 160 mph.

Edwards went for broke. No points racing this time. He opted not to worry about the worst-case scenario of crashing and possibly finishing 20th.

"It crossed my mind," Edwards said. "But nothing is guaranteed in this thing. I get what I can while I can. And I knew I wouldn't have gotten a wink of sleep tonight if I didn't try something on the last lap."

It took quite an effort for Edwards to get in position to try something. He started 34th, had two bumping incidents on pit road and twice got beat out of the pits by Johnson late in the race when Edwards came in with the lead.

After the finish, Edwards walked up to Johnson's car on pit road to ask him a question.

Edwards: "How much did I clear you by?''

Johnson: "About seven car lengths."

Edwards: "Man, I got in there too hard."

Johnson: "Ya think?"

This thought process is what fans want to see -- mash the gas and live with the consequences. The same attitude was happening behind the two leaders when Greg Biffle banged door panels with Jeff Gordon to finish third.

Biffle, who won the first two Chase races, continues to make it a three-man battle for the championship. He trails Johnson by 30 points and Edwards by 20 heading into next weekend's wild-card race at Talladega.

"I don't think this [championship] will come down to who runs the best," Biffle said. "It will be who has the fewest hiccups, because all of us are running well. I doubt it will stay this tight for all 10 races, but it might."

It's also doubtful the final laps can continue to produce dramatic finishes like we've witnessed in the past two races. But considering the attitude of the guys running up front, it might.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.