Joe Medley: Laps Edwards never wanted to run will serve him well at ‘Dega in fall
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
May 05, 2013 | 3337 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carl Edwards at Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Carl Edwards at Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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TALLADEGA — Carl Edwards has jogged across the Talladega finish line, right after flying into its catch fence in 2009.

Sunday, he led when a caution flag came out for rain on lap 125, two-thirds of the way through NASCAR’s Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup race and well past the point of an official race.

He waited out a three-hour, 36-minute and six-second rain delay, hoping to be declared the winner, but he and the rest of the field wound up having to run the final 67 laps. Edwards wound up not winning, but remember this day for Edwards.

He’ll be much better for it the next time he shows up at Talladega.

“I was kind of really hoping for rain, but then the last 60 laps ended up being 60 of the most educational laps I’ve had at a plate race,” he said. “I learned a ton.”

That should send chills through the rest of the field, considering how good Edwards was through the weekend and how strong he ran in a Talladega race he actually finished on all four wheels.

Expect to see Edwards’ signature victory backflip soon at Talladega, perhaps as early as October.

It’s not just a hunch.

First, he drives a Ford, and Fords took the top three spots and five of the top 10 Sunday, in the Talladega debut of NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car.

Second, the guy and his team are smart. With rain forecast throughout the weekend here and a qualifying rainout likely, they played Friday’s first practice to win and did. The field was set by practice times, so Edwards won the pole.

Sunday, he timed an outside move to pass Ricky Stenhouse Jr. perfectly, taking a half-car lead just in time for the rain caution. Had NASCAR called the race at any point in the near-four-hour delay, Edwards would have bagged his first Talladega victory.

The guy who has blown engines or crashed in five of his 18 Talladega starts did everything but make it rain enough and hold off upset winner David Ragan’s miraculous charge on the final lap of a green-white-checker finish.

Edwards still finished third, and those final 60-something laps he never wanted to run made him a better plate racer.

“I’ve had a lot of races where I don’t get to run the last bit of the race up there in the lead, and it’s been for a number of reasons,” he said. “Sometimes bad luck, sometimes bad strategy and mistakes.

“So, for me to race up there with Matt (Kenseth) and Jimmie (Johnson) and these guys (Ragan and Gilliland) and have all that pressure, and the restarts, the green-white-checkered and everything that was going on, I think it was pretty good.”

Good enough that Edwards left Talladega still in second place in the Sprint Cup points, just two points closer to Johnson.

Lots of season lies ahead. That includes Daytona, where Edwards got caught up in a nine-car crash in February. It also includes Talladega, where he was about to win when Brad Keselowski hooked him into the catch fence in 2009.

Edwards ran up front all day Sunday and came away with a lot of confidence about his next visit to Talladega.

“I not only learned stuff, but I’m gonna remember it,” he said. “It’s burned in there, because there was so much pressure right there, so I enjoyed that, and I’m pretty grateful for it.

“Even though it’s not a win, I guarantee you, we’ll be pretty good at Daytona and pretty good when we come back here. There were some things that I picked up.”

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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