NASCAR notes: Ignition failure damages Edwards’ Chase hopes

  • By Mike Cranston Associated Press
  • Saturday, October 11, 2008 9:19pm
  • SportsSports

CONCORD, N.C. — First, Carl Edwards heard his car vibrating. Later, his crew didn’t get the lug nuts on tightly. Then his car stalled, leaving him stranded in the pits.

A night full of problems left Edwards 33rd Saturday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, severely damaged his Sprint Cup championship hopes.

Edwards entered the Bank of America 500 in second place in the Chase for the championship, 72 points behind Jimmie Johnson. He dropped to fourth place, 168 behind Johnson, with five races left.

“It’s not good,” Edwards said. “I think we’re still fourth, though, so there are only three guys in front of us.”

After some early vibration problems and a pit mishap that forced him to back into his stall to tighten loose lug nuts, Edwards had even more misfortune.

His No. 99 Ford stalled out and his engine wouldn’t fire on pit road. Lap after lap of green-flag racing was being run without Edwards.

“They wound up changing both ignition boxes and the wiring harness that controls it and then magically it had ignition again,” car owner Jack Roush said. “But it had no ignition on either box and the initial diagnosis was that it was dead.”

By the time Edwards finally got back on the track, he was in 39th place — and 16 laps down.

“I certainly don’t wish anybody else bad luck, but we’re going to have to have some bad luck spread around before we get back into it with the 99,” Roush said.

JOHNSON SOLID: Jimmie Johnson had another top-10 finish and retained his points lead in his quest to win a third straight Sprint Cup title. But Johnson wasn’t happy after finishing sixth Saturday night.

“I had to take a lot of chances today to get the result that we did,” said Johnson, whose 72-point lead was sliced to 69 over Jeff Burton.

“I don’t like putting myself in that situation. I almost lost the car four times. It was that frustration of being on pins and needles out there. Trying to run as hard as you can and watching positions slip by.

Johnson couldn’t overtake Burton late in the race, but did extend his lead to 86 over Greg Biffle, who finished seventh.

“The first two-thirds were good for us. We were junk at the end,” Johnson said. “We took a lot of risks tonight trying to get as many points as I could on (Biffle), and hang with (Burton) and get by him. I near through it away a couple of times.”

Johnson started from the pole after qualifying was rained out Thursday. But after winning five of six points races from 2003-05, he remained winless since the track’s resurfacing.

Still, Johnson is in a good spot heading to Martinsville next week.

“I think we’ll be real good there,” Johnson said. “It’s been a good track for us.”

JUNIOR WRECKS: A day after celebrating his 34th birthday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a lap away from pitting when his right front tire was cut after he ran over debris on the 103rd lap. He hit the wall hard, his car was heavily damaged, and he finished 36th.

“Unbelievable. Pitting in one lap,” Earnhardt said over his radio.

Earnhardt, one of several victims of right front tire trouble Saturday, was treated at the infield care center and released.

It was the second straight week Earnhardt, who remained 10th in the points race, failed to finish a race. He was involved that 12-car wreck triggered by Edwards with 16 laps to go at Talladega.

ALLMENDINGER DINGED: AJ Allmendinger’s one-race deal in the No. 00 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing didn’t last long.

Allmendinger hit the wall hard on the 53rd lap, ending his night with a last-place finish, two weeks after he was let go by Red Bull Racing.

“It’s not what they paid me to do,” Allmendinger said. “I thought the middle was open. Regan (Smith) kind of got wide and Chad (McCumbee) was a little slow on the bottom. I thought the middle was open. I think Regan came down a little bit, but more than anything I think it was me not being patient enough that early in the race.”

Allmendinger will drive in the final five races in the No. 10 Dodge for Gillette Evernham Motorsports after Patrick Carpentier was let go. But he wanted a better showing in the No. 00.

“I feel like an idiot, honestly,” Allmendinger said.

PINK FOR MOM: Bell Sadler couldn’t wait to take pictures of her son in a pink firesuit and behind the wheel of a pink car Saturday night. Elliott Sadler was happy his mom was around to watch him raise awareness for breast cancer.

Sadler, Kyle Busch and Bobby Labonte all drove pink cars for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The organization helped Bell Sadler after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007.

“It was tough,” said Elliott Sadler, before finishing 20th. “Honestly, my priorities seemed like they changed that day.”

Bell Sadler’s cancer has since gone into remission, and her son’s life has changed for the better.

“I wanted to be home and around my mom and dad more,” Sadler said. “Actually when I got to spend more time at home during the week it helped me focus a little bit more on the weekend.”

LUG NUTS: Matt Kenseth had the worst night of the Chase drivers. He spun and hit the wall early on his way to finishing 41st. … Denny Hamlin finished 16th, less than a week after he spent a night at an Alabama hospital following a hard crash at Talladega. … Jessica Simpson sang the national anthem, while five-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Aaron Peirsol was the grand marshal. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been to before,” said Peirsol, attending his first race weekend. … Dale Inman, a former crew chief for Richard Petty, was awarded the Smokey Yunick Award before the race for his achievement in motorsports.

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