Commentary

Carl Edwards makes up some ground at Texas Motor Speedway

Texas blog Sunday.

Updated: November 2, 2008, 7:43 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Race results

All times ET

7:22 p.m.

Carl Edwards gambled on fuel and earned the victory Sunday in the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, gaining significant ground on Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson.

Edwards now trails Johnson by 106 points with two races to go this season.

Johnson finished 15th, one lap down after struggling the entire race.

Edwards, who also won the April event at TMS, has won two consecutive races.

Jeff Gordon was second Sunday and Jamie McMurray finished third.

7:09 p.m.

With 17 laps to go Carl Edwards may try to make it to the end without pitting. Leader Jamie McMurray pits with 14 laps to go and takes two tires.

Jimmie Johnson pits with 12 to go and also only takes right-side tires. He's 17th. Edwards now is back in front. Can he make it to the end without running out of gas?

7:05 p.m.

David Gilliland has a dreaded trip to the NASCAR hauler after the race. He said he did not intentionally wreck Juan Pablo Montoya.

"He jacked my rear wheel off ground earlier," Gilliland said of Montoya. "I was going to let him go, but I misjudged it in the turn. It's just unfortunate."

***

Jimmie Johnson is still one lap down and running 17th with 30 laps to go. Carl Edwards is fourth. He hasn't been able to gain much ground and isn't as fast as he was out front in clean air. Jamie McMurray is in front, Clint Bowyer is second and Greg Biffle is third.

6:45 p.m.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who won a cooking contest Saturday, was cooked on the track with 71 laps to go.

David Gilliland appeared to intentionally bump Montoya from behind, causing Montoya to make hard contact with the wall. Montoya said the problems with Gilliland started a few laps earlier.

"It's very simple," Montoya said. "I bumped him a little bit earlier when he almost put me in the wall. Then he came out of the corner and just wrecked me. It's just frustrating when idiots get in the way."

NASCAR parked Gilliland and the No. 38 Ford for rough driving.

When the race restarted with 66 laps to go, Carl Edwards was seventh, losing six spots on pit road. Teammate Jamie McMurray was the leader after taking only two tires.

6:24 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson barely avoids trouble in the pits with 91 laps to go while pitting under caution. Travis Kvapil and Sam Hornish Jr. almost bump in front of Johnson as Johnson is leaving the pits.

Chad Knaus doesn't see it at first and tells Johnson, "Go, go go." Than Knaus sees Kvapil in the way and yells, "Wait!" Johnson hits the brakes to avoid Kvapil.

Knaus lays his head in his hands on the pit wagon, knowing this isn't their day.

The first accident comes one lap after the restart when Kvapil spins through the infield grass. Johnson is running 20th.

6:09 p.m.

Carl Edwards lapped Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the start of Lap 226, leaving only 15 cars on the lead lap. Jimmie Johnson is 21st.

With 100 laps to go, the race has been accident-free, a rarity for TMS. Only 13 cars remain on the lead lap. Edwards has an 8.9-second lead over second-place David Reutimann.

5:58 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson continues to run last among the 12 Chase drivers. He's 21st on Lap 210, the third car one lap down. And Carl Edwards is blowing away the field with a 7.6-second lead over David Reutimann.

Edwards lapped Jeff Gordon five laps later, leaving only 17 cars on the lead lap.

5:35 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson is up to 22nd, but he's still the fourth car a lap down. Carl Edwards keeps lapping cars, which makes it harder for Johnson to get in position for the Lucky Dog.

But crew chief Chad Knaus remains confident.

"We'll get you back on the lead lap," Knaus said to Johnson on Lap 170. "It'll take some work, but we'll get there and we'll be good."

We'll see.

5:21 p.m.

Only 18 cars are on the lead lap on Lap 144 when caution No. 2 flies for debris in Turn 2. That enabled Tony Stewart to get the Lucky Dog and put 19 cars on the lead lap for the restart.

After pit stops under yellow, Carl Edwards retains the lead and Brian Vickers is second. Jimmie Johnson is 26th, the seventh car a lap down when they restart on Lap 149.

5:02 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson is in trouble. The 48 is not the first car a lap down. Three drivers are ahead of him that are a lap down on Lap 110, so Jimmie has some work to do if he's going to earn a Lucky Dog on a caution.

Cars are pitting again for green-flag stops on Lap 113, including leader Carl Edwards. Johnson pits on Lap 114.

After the reshuffle, Johnson is 30th, still one lap down on Lap 119. But Johnson is the seventh car down a lap. Edwards keeps the lead.

4:48 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson is moving backwards at the moment. He is 27th on Lap 92. No one is panicking. Crew chief Chad Knaus told Johnson he expects the car to come around.

But Johnson falls to 29th on Lap 94 and got lapped by Carl Edwards on Lap 96. This could get interesting. If they finished this way, Edwards would be 64 points down with two races to go. But we aren't yet a third of the way to the end.

4:40 p.m.

Turns out Reed Sorenson didn't blow an engine. He had a loose oil line and he's still in the race.

Roush Fenway cars were running in the top 3 spots on Lap 75 -- Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray.

Edwards, who won the spring race at Texas and won last weekend at Atlanta, is running away from the field at the moment. He had a 4.3-second lead on lap 80.

All three winners in the short history of the fall race at Texas also won one week earlier in Atlanta.

4:25 p.m.

Surprise of the day so far -- David Reutimann takes the lead from Clint Bowyer on Lap 49.

Teams start making green-flag pit stops on Lap 51. Bowyer regained the top spot after everyone pitted.

First bonehead move of the day -- Travis Kvapil is penalized for speeding on pit road when he comes back to the pits to serve his penalty for speeding on pit road moments earlier.

The first caution comes on Lap 57 when Reed Sorenson blew an engine.

Most of the cars came back to pit road to top off fuel and change tires -- including Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- even though they pitted only a few laps earlier.

Carl Edwards has the lead on the restart.

4:07 p.m.

Sliced Bread, as 18-year-old Joey Logano is known, looked more like chopped liver early in the race. He was the first driver to go a lap down when Clint Bowyer passed him in Turn 2 of Lap 28.

Logano was almost 4 mph off the pace in the No. 02 Toyota, the fourth car for Joe Gibbs Racing. This is Logano's third Cup race and his second on a 1.5-mile oval. He finished 39th at Kansas. Logano is replacing Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Camry next season.

3:58 p.m.

The TMS attendance is down a little, but this still is a huge crowd compared to most Cup events this season. It's probably in excess of 150,000.

Turn 1 and Turn 4 of the frontstretch grandstand is about half full, but the backstretch attendance appears higher than at the April event.

***

Clint Bowyer just passed Jeff Gordon for the lead on the end of Lap 15. Gordon led the first 14 laps, but there's a long way to go, folks.

The Cup events at TMS ranks among the longest of the season. It's 334 laps around the 1.5-mile oval, or 501 miles.

3:43 p.m.

In case you missed it, Juan Pablo Montoya won the cooking battle at TMS this weekend. But he had a lot of help from Mario Batali.

Three drivers were teamed up with famous chefs in a cook-off, sort of Iron Chef style, to see who would win. The battle will be shown on an upcoming Rachael Ray show. She teamed with Carl Edwards. Also in the food challenge was famed Fort Worth chef Tim Love, who teamed with Bobby Labonte.

The secret ingredient was chili peppers. Montoya said his job in the contest was the designated pepper chopper.

Edwards was asked what was hotter, the peppers or his teammate?

"Oh, definitely Rachael," he said.

3:10 p.m.

An hour before the green flag, all the cars were lined up in the same direction -- facing the grandstands. The cars were rolled out on the asphalt between the infield grass sections and parked on the track facing the stands.

Also one hour before the start, driving into the TMS facility was no problem. The roads leading to the track were almost empty, an unheard-of sight for a TMS Cup race.

***

The most mismatched trophy of the season -- Jeff Gordon's receiving the Beretta shotgun for winning the Dickies 500 pole.

Gordon complimented the gift, but he's not much of a hunter. And I don't think he'll find much use for the shotgun from his penthouse apartment in Manhattan.

1:45 p.m.

One thing about Jeff Gordon's Nicorette car: You could see the thing at midnight in the forest.

The hood is bright yellow, actually more like fluorescent yellow. The roof is green, and the numbers are bright yellow.

If Paul Menard's beaming yellow car manages to get side by side with Gordon's, the crowd might need sunglasses to protect its eyes when the cars go by.

***

Leave it to TMS president Eddie Gossage to come up with some new wrinkle for an event. A quick glance at the cars lined up on pit road shows half of them facing toward Turn 1 and the other half facing Turn 4.

I don't think they'll take the green flag that way, but it should be interesting to see what happens when the engines fire.

Gossage also placed in the infield grass a giant balloon replica of the Dickies 500 trophy -- a silver cowboy hat on top of a black pedestal.

1 p.m.

One of the entertaining moments for me during every race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway is a Sunday morning breakfast that TMS president Eddie Gossage has with a few reporters.

Gossage holding court can be quite a discussion, but this time he took a backseat to his boss -- Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith.

Smith gave his opinion on several pressing subjects, including his long-standing desire to purchase NASCAR from the France family if the opportunity ever were to present itself.

"I stand by that," he said. "And it's getting closer."

For the record, the France family has given no indication of having any desire to sell the sanctioning body that patriarch Bill France Sr. founded 60 years ago.

But Smith always likes to stir the pot and get people talking. He believes some tough days are ahead for NASCAR with the economic downturn, but no one should panic.

"It's going to affect everybody," Smith said. "This is the most difficult financial situation of our lives. We'll lose some [NASCAR] teams, and some teams will get smaller. But I honestly think motor sports will do better in this than a lot of other sports."

Smith has seen the effects with decreased attendance at some SMI facilities this season, none more so than Atlanta Motor Speedway. The crowd at AMS last weekend was estimated at 80,000, the smallest in many years for a facility with 124,000 seats.

Atlanta will host the Labor Day weekend race next season, and Smith expects good things.

"We are going to sell the place out," he said. "You wait and see."

Smith is a proud supporter of the Republican Party, but he goes off the reservation when it comes to health care. Smith is in favor of a national health care system.

"We don't have a choice," he said. "It's something we have to do. We are the only country of the top 36 that doesn't have it.

"Our company spent $48 million this year of covering our employees. For every car made in America, about $1,500 to $2,000 of the cost goes to the health insurance of the people who built it."

***

Kevin Harvick still is trying to find sponsors for his Nationwide and Truck series teams for 2009, but he hopes things will get a little better after Election Day.

"It is just different right now," Harvick said. "Nobody wants to make a commitment because the president is getting ready to change hands, the stock market is up and down, the housing market is down, so everybody is just kind of in panic mode.

"You are waiting a lot longer for commitments than what you would have before, and that puts everybody in a little bit tougher spot than we have been in before."

***

Next weekend at Phoenix will be Mark Martin's final race with Army as his sponsor. Martin said his time working with young soldiers has been one of the best experiences of his life.

"I've seen so many inspiring men and women that are so committed at such a young age," Martin said. "It made me really proud of our young people. Those are the things I hope I hold on to as I move forward in life."

Martin said that one of the things that touched him the most was visiting injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"I look at them, and so many of them have great attitudes and they're short a limb or two," Martin said. "That in itself has sort of changed my perspective. That's why this program is really special to me."

***

Weather conditions for Sunday's Dickies 500 are beautiful but a bit on the warm side for early November in North Texas. The forecast at the green flag is 83 degrees under clear skies.

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

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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