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Published: Monday, 8/22/2005

Edwards moving on up in Nextel Cup standings


BROOKLYN, Mich. - In just the bud of his career, Carl Edwards is already developing a knack for mature racing.

Edwards left Michigan International Speedway yesterday with two top-five finishes for the weekend. He had a chance for a win in the Nextel Cup GFS Marketplace 400 and could have finished second in the Busch Ser-

ies Domino's Pizza 250 on Saturday. But by racing smart, Edwards guaranteed he would stay in the chase in both series.

After leading 17 laps late, Edwards finished fourth in the Cup race yesterday, his highest Cup finish at MIS in three starts. He gave up the lead when he stopped for fuel with eight laps left.

The finish moved Edwards up a spot in the Cup standings to ninth.

"It's exactly what we need. Now I can go to Bristol and breathe a little easier," Edwards said. "I don't think there's anything that I'd change for the whole day."

In the Busch race, Edwards had a last-lap battle with Greg Biffle for second, but said he didn't risk a pass because of points. After the third-place finish, he is fourth in the Busch standings in his first year in the series.

Edwards had his first anniversary of Cup racing this weekend - last year's August MIS race was his debut. He finished 10th then, and fourth in June.

He's had two Cup wins and three Busch wins since then, and with the victories have come lessons. He's built a strong base but knows it can be easily squandered. And consistent points are better than the odd backflip.

"This points deal is completely different," Edwards said. "I'm not good at it yet, but I'm learning."

Edwards has nine top-10 Cup finishes this year, 15 in the Busch series. The rigors of preparation and travel alone make Edwards' position remarkable. He's missed Cup qualifying numerous times because of time conflicts with Busch races. He recently bought a plane to make the travel between speedways, sometimes three flights in a weekend, a little easier.

Although he built a several-second lead with his No. 99 Ford, Edwards did not question his crew chief Bob Osborne's decision to refuel. He had pitted at Lap 144 and fell just outside the recommended range of 48-52 laps per tank.

"We couldn't stretch it on fuel because if we threw a great points day out the window, we'd never forgive ourselves," Edwards said. "A victory would have been really sweet here. [But] I'm happy about this.

"When we look back, I'm sure at the end of the year this is going to be one of those races where we wished we had more like it. I dare not complain."

Edwards will be tested more when he visits short tracks for two of the next three races, courses he struggled on earlier in the season.

"So many things you can't control. If we can't do it, we don't deserve to be in the Chase," he said.

Spoken like a true veteran, or at least someone with the appearance of one.

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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