Blown tire keeps Edwards reeling

Updated: July 13, 2005, 2:32 PM ET
Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill. -- With temperatures in the 90s, this wasn't a good day for tires.

Carl Edwards, Dave Blaney, Elliott Sadler and Michael Waltrip blew out right-front tires Sunday during the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick pitted, anticipating they were about to lose tires.

"We were just wearing the right rear tire out," Johnson said after coming back from a lap down for a third-place finish. "Other guys had trouble in practice. … We must have been too aggressive with our setup and overworked the right rear tire."

Harvick, the 14th-place finisher, dropped from fifth to 30th when he pitted late.

Edwards blew the right-front tire on his Ford on the 79th lap, sending him into the wall. Blaney's tire went on the 118th lap, and Sadler's Ford hit the wall on the 164th of 267 laps on the 1.5-mile oval. Waltrip's blowout occurred on the 215th lap.

"I don't know if I ran over something or what happened, but by the time I realized it going into turn one, it was too late and it got up in the wall," said Blaney, who was in a Chevrolet.

Waltrip's tire also blew in the first turn.

"I hadn't seen any problems with the right front," he said. "We'd been tearing up the right rear a little bit. … We just kept having a little bit of tire problems here and there. The left front would be flat one time. The right rear would be blistered, and then the right front blew out. So there is really no trend; just a bad day."

Goodyear Tires product manager Rick Heinrich said the problem appeared to be that the tires were too good.

"We don't really have the type of tire wear that we'd like to have on the right side tires," he said. "Tire wear is one of the important things that keeps a tire cool. Tire wear dissipates heat. … Tire wear is actually very good. It's part of what helps keep a tire cool. The blisters are caused by heat."

There were no injuries reported.

Sore loser
Tony Stewart finished fifth after starting from the rear of the 43-car field and driving with a very sore body from a crash during practice Friday.

"I had pain the whole race," Stewart said. "When you grow up in the Midwest racing sprint cars and midgets, you race hurt and you race with black eyes and you race with bloody eyes and you just do what you've got to do and we got it done today."

Stewart has finished third, second, first and fifth in his last four starts at Chicagoland.

Edwards struggling
The past three weeks haven't been fun for Carl Edwards.

He has dropped from fourth in the Nextel Cup points standings to 12th, after finishing 39th Sunday.

A week earlier, he was 33rd in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, and that followed a 38th-place finish in Sonoma. The recent trouble comes after a win at Pocono on June 12 and a fifth-place finish at Michigan a week later.

"It was a real hard hit," said Edwards, who was running 37th when his tire blew Sunday. "I think what might be going on here is the tire might be a tick soft for the racetrack and the loads on it. … We had a race-winning car there today; that's frustrating for me. It's just real frustrating. I really think we could've won that race, so it's very frustrating."

New Ford
Ford teams will be racing the new Fusion next season in NASCAR, according to a report Sunday in The Detroit News.

Ford has scheduled a press conference Thursday in Charlotte, N.C., to announce the model that will replace the Taurus, which will be dropped from production early next year. The Fusion is scheduled to hit the sales floor this fall.

Fusion is a midsize model that will replace it on the sales floor and, apparently, in NASCAR, where the Taurus has raced in the stock car sport since 1998, when it replaced the Thunderbird.

Ford officials at the racetrack declined to comment.

Sandberg's sympathy
Although he vowed not to "mess up the name" of the track, former Cubs star Ryne Sandberg -- Sunday's grand marshall -- expressed sympathy for Jeff Gordon, who called the ballpark on Chicago's north side "Wrigley Stadium" and butchered "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during a game in late May.

"I feel bad for him," Sandberg, who will be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in three weeks, said before the race. "That's a tough thing that happened. But he's gotten a lot of publicity over that -- not all good. [It was] an honest mistake that happened, and I'm glad it wasn't me who said that."

Cubs fans, who booed Gordon, might not be thrilled with Sandberg, either. Before telling the drivers to start their engines, he said, "Here's to a World Series in Chicago." If that happens, the games will probably be played on the South Side, where the White Sox own baseball's best record. The Cubs are mired below .500.

Spark plugs
With temperatures in the low 90s, Carl Long parked his car after 148 laps due to heat exhaustion. … Grammy winner Toni Braxton sang the national anthem.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press