Carl Edwards' odds are long to catch Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings if they are based on the numbers alone. Factor in Johnson's status of being a two-time defending champion, and the odds banked on nearly impossible heading into Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
All of that was riding on the mind of crew chief Bob Osbourne in final 100 miles of Sunday's race as he pondered two options: tell Carl to conserve fuel and hope for a miraculous win or bring Carl in for fuel and salvage a handful of points.
Osbourne bet on the former, and boy, did it pay off.
Edwards picked up his second-straight win of the Chase at the Fort Worth track, and more notably, took advantage of Jimmie Johnson's extremely sub par day -- rated against Johnson's typical performance -- to knock the post-race point deficit from 183 points to 106 points. With two races left, Johnson can still win the title by finishing 7th or better, even if Edwards leads every lap of the next two events.
Johnson started 7th on Sunday, carrying his commanding Chase lead into the season's third-to-last race. After the race's first caution, Johnson lost some track position by coming to pit road. The stop saw Johnson's crew make an adjustment on the No. 48 that didn't work out, and sent him spiraling backwards. He was eventually lapped in 29th place, but got the car running better on later pit stop.
Track position, though, haunted Johnson because of the race's decidedly green affair that saw just a handful of cautions. The lack of yellows kept Johnson from getting the free pass back on to the lead lap for being the first car a lap down. In the end, Johnson wound up 15th -- the highest that he ran in the race after going a lap down -- and was extremely disappointed after the race.
"It's like getting kicked in the balls over and over," Johnson said. "That sucked. First three runs we were just terrible. After that we got the car better and I ran in the top four, top six throughout the rest of the race, but just never had a chance to get a lap back."
"We were close a couple times, maybe a car or two away. We just got off at the start of the race, with all the green flag running, we just couldn't get back on a lead lap. But we made the car better and ran well. Just don't have the finish to show for it."
If nothing else, struggles for Jimmie Johnson just brought out a different side of the two-time champ. How many times have you heard the guy that seems so polished say "getting kicked in the balls" or something of the like? Not too often.
Aside from the race's main story line, Jeff Gordon used the same strategy as Edwards to take a car that he won the pole with, fell back with, went a lap down with and then got a lap back with to secure a 2nd-place finish, and a spot inside the Top-5 of the Chase standings.
Jamie McMurray would have been the race winner -- I'll gladly say I picked him in another publication I write for -- had Edwards and Gordon pitted after leading 59 laps late in the event and making the most efficient use of his final two-tire stop on pit road. He wound up third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Greg Biffle fifth.
Carl Edwards Gambles for Fuel Mileage Win, Closes Title Gap on Jimmie Johnson originally appeared on NASCAR FanHouse on Sun, 02 Nov 2008 20:46:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.