By Lee MontgomerySpecial to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
ELKHART LAKE, Wis.—Carl Edwards had the last laugh.
After Thursday's first NASCAR Nationwide Series practice at Road America, Edwards poked fun at himself for how bad he was on the 4.048-mile road course, even though he was the fifth fastest driver. But Edwards proved to be a quick study, as he dominated the Bucyrus 200 to win the first Nationwide Series race at Road America.
"The corner workers, I could tell they were shaking their heads at me and the rest of us. It was ugly," Edwards said of Thursday's day-long practice. "But as a driver, this track is pretty tough. It's a long track, there's a lot going on. … I thought about it a lot going back and forth (to Sonoma, Calif. for the Sprint Cup race) on the airplane. Last night, laying in my motorhome, I ran laps in my head. I really tried to give my guys the best focus I could give them."
Plus, Edwards credited road-course veteran Boris Said and a Road America driving instructor for providing tips on how to get around the mammoth track.
And then, Edwards and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer got some motivation from Roush Fenway Racing teammate Paul Menard, who was blistering fast on Thursday.
"To be honest, Drew was mad that he was faster than us," Edwards said.
So the team worked on getting the No. 60 Ford better, and by the time Edwards showed up for Saturday's qualifying and race, he was the class of the field. Edwards put down a blazingly fast lap to claim the pole in qualifying, and then he led 35 of the race's 50 laps.
"First of all, my guys built an amazing race car," Edwards said. "That car was really, really fast. It was just a joy to drive."
But the race wasn't without some drama. Road-course races are usually filled with fuel-mileage strategy, and this one was no different. Edwards gave up the lead to pit for fuel under caution with 19 laps to go and restarted 13th.
"I was nervous about that," Edwards said. "Once I got to the fast section at the back of the track, my car didn't handle as well without fresh air on the nose. That was a little wild. … I saw the race slipping away at that point. I was pretty nervous."
Brad Coleman inherited the lead, but the race got physical in the closing laps, and Coleman got punted out of the way in Turn 1 by Brad Keselowski. In the melee, Edwards moved up quickly, following Jacques Villeneuve toward the front.
After another yellow, Edwards charged inside Villeneuve into Turn 1 and got the lead. From there, he pulled away to 4.3-second victory over runner-up Ron Fellows. Brendan Gaughan was third, with Keselowski fourth and Owen Kelly fifth.
Villeneuve suffered a broken alternator wire in the closing laps and finished 25th.