Carl Edwards Makes Surprise ASCS Sooner Region Visit


Lonnie Wheatley, TULSA, Okla. (April 9, 2006) – Just picture this, if you will.


You’re residing in the zip code of auto racing’s pinnacle (and of the plus-four digit variety to be more specific), among the leading sensations with the nation’s top stock car racing circuit, NASCAR’s Nextel Cup Series.


But mechanical woes forced you out of Saturday afternoon’s O’Reilly 300 NASCAR Busch Series event in Fort Worth, TX.


With Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Samsung/Radio Shack 500 looming at the picturesque Texas Motor Speedway, featuring a total purse of more than seven million dollars, how would you spend your few idle Saturday night hours?


Well, if you’re Carl Edwards, you’re going racing.  It’s as simple as that.


Edwards, the driver of the No. 99 Office Depot NASCAR Nextel Cup machine with four Cup wins in 2005, hooked up with local Sprint Car owner Mike Sanders and returned to his roots by taking part in Saturday night’s season-opening event for the American Bank of Oklahoma American Sprint Car Series Sooner Region at nearby Cowtown Speedway in Kennedale, TX.


With Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Race offering up somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 or so to win, what would possess a man like Carl Edwards to strap himself into a wild, winged Sprint Car for a feature event worth $1,500 to win?


A simple desire to race, and have some fun while doing what he loves doing, pure and simple.


And that fact was appreciated by his Cowtown competitors and fans alike.


After initial disbelief by some rival drivers such as, “Carl Edwards?  No way.  He’s not really here is he?”, the overall sentiment was best voiced by two-time ASCS Sooner Region champion Kevin Ramey who commented that, “I think it’s pretty cool that he’s here, he remembers where he came from and that’s impressive.”


True, the Missouri native comes from an open-wheel background, along with fellow current NASCAR stars Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, J.J. Yeley and Ryan Newman among others.


But Edwards’ previous open-wheel outings have been primarily confined to the wide, sweeping ovals of the USAC Silver Crown ranks.  A far cry from the cozy confines of Cowtown Speedway’s high-banked quarter-mile clay oval.


In NASCAR-ese, comparing the big tracks of the USAC Silver Crown series to Cowtown Speedway is much like the comparison between Daytona and Bristol.  They’re a pair of wildly different animals.


Much like Bristol, Cowtown’s high-banks and related speed offer no opportunity to rest.


Even eventual Saturday night ASCS Sooner Region Cowtown Speedway feature winner Sam Hafertepe, Jr., a young buck of just 20 years of age that is well accustomed to the Sprint Car wars, commented early in the night that, “I better grab an extra bottle of water or two now, because this place is generally quite a workout.”


But Edwards is a racer, through and through.  And if anybody at Cowtown Speedway had any doubts about that fact before Saturday night’s card, they don’t have those doubts any more.


Edwards arrived at the track in time for some tips from car owner Mike Sanders and took it easy for his first couple of practice laps before turning up the wick and posting some solid circuits.


Adjustments to his car before the heat race proved detrimental however, with Edwards commenting to onlookers that, “We shouldn’t have made those changes, it didn’t feel comfortable at all,” even after climbing from eighth to fifth.


Edwards found himself gridded outside the front row of the “B” Main, with only the top four finishers advancing to the main event.  Polesitter Brian McClelland, an ASCS Sooner Region regular hailing from Tulsa, gunned into the early lead, but as Edwards became more comfortable with his mount, he moved to the topside of the high-banked track and charged into the lead on the tenth round of the 15-lapper.


A breathtaking thread-the-needle move through a pair of lapped cars moments later set Edwards free, and put the packed house on its feet as he charged to the checkered flag unabated and locked himself into the 17th starting position for the “A” Feature event.


Acclimating to his newfound environment, the Missouri native climbed into top-ten contention by the midway point.  Not content with a mere top ten finish however, Edwards clawed for more and even brushed the frontstretch wall on one occasion.  When the race’s third and final caution flew with 24 of 30 laps in the books, Edwards came to a stop on the frontstretch to consult with ASCS official Will Hale, who confirmed that all was well with his ride.


Edwards picked off a pair of spots in the final six rounds to garner a tenth place finish amongst a stout bunch of ASCS Sooner Region rivals.


But more important than a tenth place finish in what could have been simply little more than a night of fun, Edwards earned an immeasurable amount of respect and admiration from the fans on hand for simply taking the time to be there and ultimately becoming very competitive in a mount upon which he’d never laid eyes upon before.