Edwards glad to return to Victory Lane

Sunday, November 14, 2010 | 8:20 p.m. CST; updated 8:28 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 14, 2010
Carl Edwards had plenty of reasons to celebrate after ending his 70-race winless streak in NASCAR with a victory Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

AVONDALE, Ariz. — The moderator started to ask Carl Edwards about breaking his 70-race winless streak when he interrupted.

"I'm well aware of that," Edwards said, smiling while adjusting his chair.

Indeed it had been a long time since Edwards had taken the checkers; his last Sprint Cup win was Nov. 16, 2008, at Homestead.

He ended the drought in convincing fashion, leading every practice session, capturing the pole and finishing off the perfect weekend by winning a fuel-strategy race at Phoenix International Speedway on Sunday.

With most of the field cutting it close on fuel, Edwards was able to keep just enough in the tank to cross the checkers, circle back and punctuate the win with his patented backflip.

That wasn't enough, though; he also charged into the crowd through an open gate and heaved the checkered flag into the stands.

Yeah, Edwards was happy to get that anchor off his car.

"I have a lot of confidence and we all work really hard, so we expect to win," said Edwards, who also won the Nationwide race Saturday. "We've had a lot of success before and with that comes a little more expectation, not just outside but within. I'm very proud how this team came together this past two years since we last won."

Edwards was competing for season championships just a couple of years ago, winning 16 career races, but suddenly couldn't find his way to the checkers. He came close with a second in Chicago earlier this season and was good enough to qualify for the Chase for the Championship, but kept hearing the questions about why he couldn't win.

Edwards ended the discussion in emphatically, leading five times for 93 laps, overtaking Denny Hamlin with about 45 laps left and holding off Ryan Newman to the line.

"It had been far too long since we had been in Victory Circle with Carl," team owner Jack Rousch said. "Everybody expects Carl to win, and Carl expects to win, so we're proud."

It came down to fuel mileage.

Because of the way the cautions fell, most of the leaders weren't sure if they'd be able to make it to the end. After the last caution, Edwards came out racing hard, but noticed some of the others were slowing down, evidently to save fuel. He backed off for a little while, but still had a nervous feeling in his stomach over the final two laps.

"I don't know the analogy, but you're putting yourself out there and you've chosen this path just hoping it works out, that the race goes the distance, that the fuel I was saving was just the right amount," said Edwards, who is fourth in the Chase points. "There's so much to be gained by winning a race and it's such a gutsy call, you just have to sit and wait. Those are some long laps, those last few laps."

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