In what may prove to be a season-saving performance, Carl Edwards rallied from two laps down to finish ninth in Sunday’s Eliminator Round middle race at Texas Motor Speedway.
With that, the Chase contender all but erased his deficit behind the cutoff to advance to the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
What was a 15-point gap going into Sunday has now been whittled down to one point behind Jeff Gordon, holder of the fourth and final advance position to South Florida.
Considering how much Edwards struggled over the first half of the race, the Top-10 finish is a small miracle for him and the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team.
Edwards started 11th but a tight condition on his car caused him to fall back during the opening stint. At Lap 102, he was running in 24th position when he was put one lap down by eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, and on Lap 165, Johnson passed him again to knock him two laps off the pace.
That led to a bit of needed strategy to help Edwards climb out of the hole.
On Lap 222, a caution came out for debris and Edwards was advised to stay out on the track to take the wave-around and pull within one lap down. Through continued adjustments on the car and several other cautions, Edwards was able to put himself in position for the free pass (first car one lap down), and he got it thanks to a yellow on Lap 295.
Edwards was back on the lead lap, but now had to charge from 25th position and get as much as he could over the final 40 laps. With the help of several late restarts, Edwards was able to do just that.
Now, remarkably, he’ll have a chance to make the Championship next weekend at Phoenix, where he’s won twice in his Cup career.
“We got super luck there at the end and my guys never quit,” he said. “I am so proud of my guys…We certainly finished better than we should have tonight. It was a great night, when for awhile it didn’t look like it was going to be.
“We get to move on to Phoenix now and we will know what we have to do there. We will take it. My guys didn’t quit and I know they won’t quit and we are going to go next week and go for this thing.”