KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With a steely smile and stiff upper lip, Carl Edwards politely weaved through throngs of longtime friends and well-wishers, flagging down Kevin Harvick’s car at the victory lane gate.
Edwards leaned through the window to offer a lengthy congratulations and then graciously completed the rest of his postrace interviews.
He delivered a good-natured slap on Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren’s shoulder with a “thanks for everything,” joked with Austin Dillon about his playoff beard and stopped when a member of the track’s color guard asked him for a selfie before exiting the media center.
“Yeah, let’s do it,” Edwards said.
Outwardly, the Columbia, Mo., native, who started his career on short tracks across Kansas and Missouri, seemed to be handling his runner-up finish to Harvick in the Hollywood Casino 400 – the hometown race Edwards desperately wants to win even more than the Daytona 500.
But looks were deceiving.
“I’d rather not talk about that,” Edwards said with a half-smile that seemed to indicate his joke was a half-truth. “It’s tough. There’s so many people that come to this racetrack that support me and have supported me. Not just when I’m racing here, but Capitol Speedway, Old Summit, Callaway Raceway, Godfrey, all these places I raced growing up. It’s a really special place for me.
“As much fun as I had racing up front, yeah, it stings. There are negative emotions tied to not winning here with that fast of a car, but that’s the way it goes.”
Edwards led 61 laps and was in first on a restart with 30 laps remaining when he lost the lead to Harvick.
This didn’t have the same dramatic ending – Edwards slapped the turn 4 wall on the last lap while attempting an optimist slide job on Johnson – “both of them were pretty painful.
“I was pretty sure we were in control of the race,” he said. “I felt really good about it. That race here in 2008 with Jimmie, I felt like we were really in control of that one. We let that one go, too.
“These I remember more just because they are so special. Fortunately, we get to race here twice now every year so I cannot wait to come back again. I wish we could line the cars back up again and go, but I’ll wait. Just like anything, you learn from your wins, but you probably learn more from your defeats. We’ll go back and look at that restart.”
Harvick, who has been working on honing his restart technique for a year, timed the green flag perfectly in his No. 4 Chevrolet, leaving Edwards’ No. 19 Toyota in the dust with a push from Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy.
“I think the key to the restart was just timing,” Harvick said. “The rest of it we’ll keep to ourselves.”
The other key was Edwards’ battle with Busch, which chewed up too many of the remaining 30 laps to make a run at Harvick.
“I knew if I could clear Kyle quickly, I could maybe catch Kevin,” Edwards said. “My car was faster than Kyle’s. He was good there for a lap or two, then I felt like I was quite a bit faster. I just needed to get by him.
“But he was doing his job. He was racing as hard as he could.”
Though teammate Matt Kenseth led a race-high 116 laps from the pole position, Edwards said his Camry was the best of the day after qualifying second.
“That’s what’s frustrating,” he said. “You should win with the fastest car, especially when you start on the front row. I take responsibility for that. I could have done something different on that restart, possibly hung on, and I wouldn’t have been in that position.
“But, man, I raced as hard as I could all day. We didn’t make hardly any mistakes. So we can keep our heads up.”
He also will enter Talladega Superspeedway in relatively safe position for advancing to the Round of 8. Edwards is 24 points ahead of the current cut line.
“Day or two will pass, maybe the sting will wear off and I’ll be more excited about the points situation going into Talladega,” he said. “Because that’s the bright side.”