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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series'
"Built Ford Tough 225"

Edwards rides fuel
to last drop for victory

Rookie from Missouri outduels
veterans Musgrave, Setzer

By Don Ward
Editor

SPARTA, Ky. (July 12, 2003) – On a beautiful moonlit night at the Kentucky Speedway, rookie Carl Edwards blazed a trail into the NASCAR history books by winning his first Craftsman Truck Series race in 18 tries.

Carl Edwards leads

Photo by Doug Cheek

Rookie Carl Edwards
leads late in the race.

The 23-year-old Columbia, Mo., native used his dirt track savvy and the confidence provided by his crew chief over dwindling fuel levels to chase down the leaders from his last place starting position over the 150 lap race to claim the $77,500 winner's share – the series' highest – and capture the "Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers." Edwards avoided the pits in the latter laps to chance having enough fuel to win the race.
"This was unbelievable. I cried the entire last lap,” Edwards said. “My crew chief (Mike Mittler) said that we could make it on fuel. I was lifting a little to save fuel. I did not realize how close we were until we died doing donuts.”
Afterward, Edwards parked his truck on the front stretch, climbed up on top of the cab and did a back flip onto the infield. "It's something I started doing on the dirt tracks back home," he said.
Edwards' victory before 46,194 fans – the second-largest for a truck race in Sparta – gave his Roush Racing team back-to-back Ford truck wins on the circuit and convince his owners to keep him and teammate Jon Wood racing the remainder of the season. The two entered the July 12 race not knowing the outcome of a Tuesday, July 15, press conference at which Roush Racing would announce whether the two would continue competing in trucks without a sponsor.

Carl Edwards

Photo by Donald E. Ward

Carl Edwards discusses
his first career victory.

Sen. Bob Graham's presidential campaign in July signed a two-race sponsorship deal on Wood's car, then committed to the rest of the season after Wood scored his first career victory at Kansas in the truck's debut. Wood, 21, earned the pole at Kentucky and placed fourth behind Edwards, second-place finisher Dennis Setzer and third-place veteran Ted Musgrave. It was Wood's sixth straight top-10 finish.
Edwards, meanwhile, had posted a career-best second place twice in the previous four races. He said he felt confident going into Kentucky that a victory was due.
"Call it cocky or anything you want, but I just had a good feeling about this place," he said.
Edwards' confidence was not derailed by a penalty imposed after Friday's qualifying, during which an engine blew and had to be replaced prior to the start of Saturday's race. The penalty forced Edwards, who started in fifth place, to move to the back of the field during the opening lap, then climb his way back to the front.
“I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around last night because I was frustrated, I knew we didn’t have it right after ‘Happy Hour’ (final practice),” Edwards said. “I woke up this morning and had a good feeling. I was on a mission and that mission was to win,” Edwards said.

Jason Leffler

Photo by Doug Cheek

Jason Leffler prepares
to climb into his truck.

Edwards took over the lead on Lap 111 of 150 when, after leading 66 laps, Brendan Gaughan blew an engine in his Dodge. Gaughan had led the most laps – 64 – until that point, from Laps 44-82 and from Laps 84-110. He spun off the track and avoided hitting the wall.
Edwards, meanwhile, kept the lead to the end, managing to hold off Musgrave and Setzer to win by 3.568 seconds.
Setzer said he used a few techniques he recently learned to help conserve fuel, but it wasn't enough to overpower Edwards. "They seem like they had the whole package on the 99 truck (Edwards)," Setzer said. "He is a tough competitor. He and Wood are obviously the future for Roush Racing."
Jason Leffler rounded out the top five. Travis Kvapil, extended his points lead from six to 41 by finishing sixth. Gaughan closed out the race 22nd and slipped from second to fourth in the points. Musgrave moved to second in the series standings, with Setzer in third.
At $722,150, the event offered the series' second-largest purse to Daytona's $747,120.

Race Notes
• Finding inspiration. Edwards was on cloud nine after his first Truck Series victory, but he used the occasion to put it into perspective. Edwards' guest that day was terminal brain cancer patient Steve Shearer, 34, of Lexington, Ky. Shearer was diagnosed a year ago with the disease and spent Saturday watching his new friend compete in the race at Sparta.
After overcoming the NASCAR-imposed penalty for changing engines after qualifying to win the race, Edwards credited Shearer for giving him the mental strength to win. "I just decided to ignore everything and enjoy running that truck around the track. I think that's the only thing that saved me from going nuts."
Shearer was in tears after the race and sat in the back of the room during the post-race interview.

Teed Musgrave

Photo by Don Ward

Ted Musgrave talks with his crew
before climbing into his truck.

In an effort to raise awareness about the disease, Shearer's name was placed on Edwards' truck with the slogan: "Help Steve Shearer and thousands of others in the fight against brain cancer." Shearer's family is part of an awareness group called Angels Among Us that helps fund the Duke Brain Cancer Center.
• Helping kids. Former three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion and Kentucky Speedway track consultant Darrell Waltrip attended the Truck Series race July 12 and took part in a pre-race press conference to promote the Tide/Give Kids The World racing program. Waltrip was joined by 6-year-old Andrew Jump and his 2-year-old brother, Alex, and their parents, Paulina and Colin, a Wish Family from Sparta, to help kick off this year's program.
Waltrip will drive the No. 17 Tide/Give Kids The World Chevrolet at Indianapolis Raceway Park's truck race Aug. 1. His truck will carry the colors of the program, a non-profit resort for children with life-threatening illnesses. The truck was displayed at the Kentucky Speedway July 12. For more information, visit: www.gktw.org.

Sammy Kershaw

Photo by Doug Cheek

Singer Sammy Kershaw performs prior to the race.

• Winston Cup hopes. During his visit to Sparta July 12, Darrell Waltrip as interviewed over the loud speakers and prognosticated on the track's chances of getting a Winston Cup date in 2004. NASCAR officials already had released part of next year's schedule, but the Sparta track is not on it. The rest of the schedule is expected to be announced sometime in August.
Waltrip said the track is worthy of a Cup event and added that he hoped the next open date would go to Sparta. He said NASCAR officials are apparently evaluating whether to continue The Winston, an all-star event held at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. Should that event be canceled next year, Waltrip said it could pose an opportunity for Kentucky.
However, he quickly added, "I'm not involved in these talks or know what they might do, it's just a hypothetical."

Back to 2003 Kentucky Speedway Articles.

 

 

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