HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Carl Edwards’ latest championship loss might have been even more painful than his first.
Leading the NASCAR season finale with 10 laps to go and closing in on his first title, Edwards wrecked while blocking fellow contender Joey Logano on a restart Sunday night.
Logano turned Edwards sideways and sent him sliding across traffic at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kasey Kahne slammed into Edwards’ rear bumper, lifting the No. 19 Toyota off the ground. Edwards spun, hit the outside wall and came to a stop on the track. Edwards climbed out, stood on the banking — not too far from his wrecked race car — and watched a replay on a big screen.
Edwards shook his head and muttered “damn” as he realized he essentially caused the melee.
“I couldn’t go to bed tonight and think that I gave him that lane,” Edwards said.
The move cost Edwards and Logano.
“I don’t blame him,” Logano said. “He had to throw the block. It’s the only move I had. I’m not going to look back at it and second guess that move. I had to do that. That’s the only play I had. … I understand why he had to throw the block and he understands why I had to make the move because that was for the win.
“That was the only shot that I had. That was for the race win. It’s 10 to go. What do you expect? It’s for a championship.”
Jimmie Johnson ended up winning the race, tying a NASCAR record by claiming his seventh championship. Logano finished fourth, two spots ahead of Kyle Busch. Edwards was 34th. Johnson, Logano, Busch and Edwards were the only title contenders in the finale.
“We had a few moments there throughout the day that we thought we were kind of on the outside looking in and didn’t really see a very good shot of winning it,” said Busch, who battled back from a lap down to have a shot down the stretch. “And then all of a sudden it seemed like we had a really good shot to win the thing. We were up front and kind of driving away from those guys behind us … and then we were out of it again.”
Edwards handled the loss with so much class that several colleagues celebrated him for it.
Edwards brushed off a request to take an ambulance ride to the infield care center, instead making the trip on foot. He stopped by Logano’s pit stall, climbed up on the box, chatted with crew chief Todd Gordon and shook hands with everyone up there.
“Yeah, no apology,” Edwards said. “I just wanted to say, ‘Hey, that’s just racing and good luck to you guys.’ There’s so much on the line. I don’t want to be anything extra to mess with Joey.”
Edwards got checked out in the care center and then gave a pep talk to family and friends, high-fiving each of them. It was a show of sportsmanship rarely seen in defeat in NASCAR, especially with so much on the line. He was even more supportive of his team, including crew chief Dave Rogers.
“They put it in my hands,” Edwards said. “That’s all you can ask for. … It didn’t work out. This is life. We performed well. We did our best. I just risked too much and Dave told me before this race it’s a pretty big reward and remember risk gets reward and I just had to push it.”
Edwards led 47 laps before finishing 34th in the race and fourth in the final standings.
But his season will be remembered for another oh-so-close ending.
Five years ago, Edwards and Tony Stewart had a head-to-head showdown at Homestead for the title. Edwards, then driving for Jack Roush, started the finale with a three-point lead in the standings and did everything he could from the minute he arrived in Florida. His Roush Fenway Racing team put his Ford on the pole, he led a race-high 119 of the 267 laps and still finished second to Stewart.
Stewart and Edwards finished tied in the final Sprint Cup Series points standings — a first in NASCAR history — and Stewart took the tiebreaker based on his five victories to Edwards’ one.
Edwards started watching a replay of that 2011 race earlier this week, but ended up turning it off in disgust.
He surely won’t want to watch this one, which left him still without a championship in 12 full seasons at the Cup level. And as much as the restart ended Edwards’ night, a late caution caused by little-known driver Dylan Lupton caused as much frustration.
“I just hated to see that caution,” Edwards said. “That was very, very frustrating. I felt like that was our race and our championship, but hey this is how racing goes.”
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