PHOENIX (AP) — Carl Edwards drove around in a holding pattern as the rain started to fall, ready to wash away his Chase chances at any second.
“We can’t let it end like this,” Edwards told his team on the radio.
Unfortunately for them, it did.
Five points from earning a spot in the finale of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, Edwards came up just short Sunday night at Phoenix International Raceway when the race was called after 219 laps due to rain.
Instead of racing for a long-awaited championship next week in Miami, Edwards will be playing out the string on a solid-just-not-great season.
“Just very disappointing for this whole Stanley Toyota team, how hard they’ve worked all year to come down to something as simple as a rain out,” said Darian Grubb, Edwards’ crew chief. “We feel like we could have raced our way back in there and had a shot at it.”
Edwards entered the Phoenix race fifth in the Chase standings behind Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.
Gordon was already in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning at Martinsville two weeks ago.
That left seven drivers vying for three spots.
A rain delay that lasted nearly seven hours included numerous trips back and forth from the garage added to the pressure of the race and the Chase.
Edwards started fourth on Sunday and lingered around the lead most of the night until a caution came out with about 120 laps left.
Crews took a while to get the track cleaned up, leading to an extended caution, and NASCAR officials kept the drivers circling in a yellow-flagged holding pattern as more rain started to move into the area.
The race was red-flagged after several laps and the cars were parked on pit road, with NASCAR officials telling the drivers not to go too far in case the track could be dried quickly.
Instead, a downpour followed and the race was called with 93 laps left to the scheduled finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race, with Harvick second, Joey Logano third and Kyle Busch fourth. Harvick, Busch and Truex, who finished 14th, advanced on points.
Edwards and his team were left wondering what might have been had the race continued.
“We were still five points out, just like we were five points coming in,” Grubb said. “We knew that was going to be a tough situation, but it ended up that it bit us and I just hate it for these guys.”
Team Penske was left out in the cold rain after nearly locking both drivers into the finale the past two weeks.
Brad Keselowski had his berth into the finale snatched away last week at Texas when he was passed by Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps and entered Sunday’s race sixth in the standings.
Starting 18th on Sunday, he lingered around the top 10 most of the night and was ninth when the race was called. That left him eight points out of the final four.
“I don't think it matters what's fair,” Keselowski said. “It matters what entertains the fans and if the fans are happy, that’s what it's all about.”
Logano had hoped to entertain them with a victory after being intentionally wrecked by Matt Kenseth while in the lead at Martinsville two weeks ago.
He had a strong run at Phoenix, putting himself in position to win, right behind Earnhardt and Harvick. He never got a chance to track them down on the restart.
“That’s the way this game is played,” Logano said. “That's the way this Chase is.”
Busch put himself into a tough spot at the drop of the opening green flag, sent to the back for jumping the start. He worked he way toward the front and was seventh when the race was called, but need a win to advance.
“I had no reason to jump the start, no reason to get excited,” Busch said. '“We had 312 laps to go race today.”