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Edwards gas gamble slices into Johnson's Sprint Cup points lead

Carl Edwards (99) prepares to pass Chase points leader Jimmie Johnson (48), who struggled with his car’s handling and finished 15th. Edwards has two races to erase a 106-point gap.

Associated Press

Carl Edwards (99) prepares to pass Chase points leader Jimmie Johnson (48), who struggled with his car’s handling and finished 15th. Edwards has two races to erase a 106-point gap.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Carl Edwards won for the second straight week, squeezing a victory out of his last tank of gas. And this time Jimmie Johnson ran out of magic.

The combination of the win by Edwards and a 15th-place finish by Johnson in Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway moved the race winner within 106 points of NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Johnson with two races remaining.

Although Edwards dominated most of the race, leading 199 of the first 264 laps on the 1.5-mile oval, it was a daring call by crew chief Bob Osborne that got Edwards the win after several other drivers used two-tire strategies to get ahead of him.

"I thought Bob made a mistake on the four-tire change," Edwards said. "But Bob came up with a way to win that thing anyway."

Osborne saw his driver chop 77 points off Johnson's lead.

"We were very close, very close," the crew chief said.

Maybe on gas, but not on the track. Edwards, who took the lead when Greg Biffle pitted with 13 laps left, beat runnerup Jeff Gordon by more than eight seconds — most of the front straightaway — and had enough gas to do a couple of doughnuts.

Even before he got out of his car, Edwards, who began the day a daunting 183 points behind Johnson in the Chase for the Championship, asked Osborne on the radio: "Hey, where did Jimmie Johnson finish?"

The answer certainly pleased Edwards, who is hoping to keep Johnson from winning a record-tying third straight Cup title.

A week earlier at Atlanta, Edwards won but was stunned to find out Johnson made a late charge to finish second and maintain most of his point margin. But this time it was Edwards who pulled off the big finish, winning for the eighth time this season.

Edwards, who also won here in April, had leads of up to a quarter of a lap at times, but he fell to seventh when Osborne chose to put on four tires on Lap 265 of the 334-lap event.

But, as the laps wound down and the cars ahead of Edwards' No. 99 Ford began pitting for two tires and gas, Osborne told Edwards to stay on the track.

Still, it was guesswork, with Osborne first telling his driver to conserve fuel because he was going to be a half-lap short, then saying he was four laps short. In the end, he went the final 103.5 miles on his last fill-up.

"I knew by default he wasn't too sure about it," Edwards said. "I'm glad it worked out. Unreal."

Johnson, who won this race a year ago, started seventh Sunday but struggled with the handling on his No. 48 Chevrolet and slid back in the field.

Edwards put him a lap down on Lap 96 as Johnson slipped to 33rd after a pit stop on Lap 113. At that point, with Edwards leading, Johnson was only 64 points ahead. But his team kept making adjustments and Johnson was able to regain some of his lost ground, although he never got back on the lead lap.

"Not the day we wanted," Johnson said. "It's frustrating."

Told what his lead is now, with races at Phoenix and Homestead remaining, Johnson said: "It's still far from over. We've got to fight hard and continue to fight hard. We go to a great track for us next week."

Biffle, who finished fifth, also kept his hopes alive in the Chase, remaining third as he came from 185 points behind Johnson to 143 back.

>>Sprint Cup

Point standings

With two races left, only these drivers are eligible in the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

J. Johnson 6,366—

Carl Edwards 6,260 106

Greg Biffle 6,223 143

Jeff Burton 6,154 212

Jeff Gordon 6,111 255

Clint Bowyer 6,099 267

Kevin Harvick 6,087 279

Matt Kenseth 5,973 393

Tony Stewart 5,962 404

Kyle Busch 5,938 428

D. Earnhardt Jr. 5,937 429

Denny Hamlin 5,935 431

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official standings today

Edwards gas gamble slices into Johnson's Sprint Cup points lead 11/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 8:41am]
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