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Edwards wins third race of season, fails postrace inspection

9/23/2007 - NASCAR

DOVER, Del. -- His car parked on the track because of a
late-race red flag, Carl Edwards had time to catch replays on the
big screen of the crash that wiped out other Chase drivers.

Edwards could only think about how lucky he was that he would
get away from Dover unscathed.

"This place has great potential for disaster," he said.

Edwards avoided trouble on the track Sunday to win at Dover
International Speedway, but he found it in the garage. The No. 99
Ford failed the postrace inspection because the right rear fender
was too low, and NASCAR this week will likely hit Edwards with a
fine and dock him crucial points.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Potson said there was no evidence of
intentional tampering.

"This is a height violation. It is not one where we believe the
structure of the body has been manipulated," he said.

Edwards had dodged the smoke, the skids and the wrecks win his
first Chase race in two seasons and vault five spots to third in
the Chase for the tightened championship standings.

Now it's all in doubt.

The probable penalty will only further jumble a points race that
has the top six drivers separated by a mere 18 points. Jeff Gordon
seized the points lead, with Tony Stewart second. Jimmie 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.

It sure was crazy. All he has to do is ask Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth or Denny Hamlin. Smoked or smashed cars derailed their
pursuit for a Nextel Cup title and the race was a disaster for most
of the championship field.

Edwards' surge late at Dover helped him avoid a massive wreck
with 14 laps left that affected Chase contenders Martin Truex Jr.,
Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, 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.

"It's tough when everybody puts a lot of hard work into
building these cars, and to just have one little problem like that
took out a lot of cars," Kurt Busch said.

Busch was far from the only driver who ran into trouble.

Matt Kenseth's car was smoking and 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. Only four Chase drivers
finished in the top 10 after they filled the first seven spots last
week at New Hampshire.

"I think right now this Chase is turning into what people
predicted," Edwards said. "The depth is such that I think you're
going to have to win races."

Greg Biffle was second and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third. Mark Martin and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five in a Car of Tomorrow
race.
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.

Gordon holds a two-point lead over Stewart and leads Clint Bowyer in sixth by 18 points.

"There were a lot of good cars today that are in the Chase that
had a bad day and not having a bad day is what you've got to do,"
said Stewart, who was ninth.

Edwards, who also leads the Busch Series, won the 100th career
race for owner Jack Roush.

"There's going to be a lot of twists and turns in what remains,
but today we're going to celebrate," Roush said.

Kenseth, Edward's Roush Fenway Racing teammate, had the car to
beat all race and was absolutely dominating, even with an
alternator problem early on. 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, finishing a woeful 35th.

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. Petty slapped Hamlin's helmet as he
walked away from the driver.

"You smack me in the helmet and I'm going to punch you in the
face," Hamlin said. "So I'd like for him to call me some time
this week."

Hamlin placed 38th -- the worst of all Chase drivers -- and is
stuck in 12th place in the standings, effectively ending his bid
for a championship.

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.

Other Chase results had Jeff Burton finish seventh and moved up
three spots in the standings to eighth. Gordon was 11th and Truex
and Johnson were 13th and 14th; Harvick was 20th; Kurt Busch 29th.