Lap after lap, Carl Edwards flirted with the outside walls on his way to another victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.
While just about everyone else in the 43-car field for yesterday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race tried to run well below those unforgiving walls, Edwards purposely hugged the concrete at speeds approaching 200 mph.
"I like running at the top of the racetrack," Edwards said after completing a season sweep on the 1.5-mile, D-shaped oval. "It's a blast."
The victory in the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 helped Edwards make up some ground in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. He moved from fifth into a tie for fourth with Ryan Newman. Both trail leader Tony Stewart by 107 points, with three races remaining in the 10-event season-ending playoff.
"Absolutely, we're making a run," Edwards said when asked if he believes he can win the title in his first full season of competition. "That's why we were here today. We had some bad runs at New Hampshire and Martinsville, tracks I'm just not as good at. But, if we can just do well at the track that we are good at, we'll do it.
"Anything can happen in racing, just anything. So we're not going to quit until the last race."
Edwards, who barely held off veteran Jimmie Johnson for his first Cup victory on the Georgia track in March, had a dominating car through the second half of yesterday's 325-lap race.
Edwards lost a lead of more than 6 seconds when the last of nine caution flags waved for debris on Lap 283. But he was able to regain control and pulled away to earn his third victory of the season, beating four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon to the finish line by 2.713-seconds, half the front straightaway on the 1.5-mile oval.
Stewart, the hottest driver in the series since June, finished ninth and increased his lead atop the standings from 15 to 43 points over Johnson, who finished 16th -- the last driver on the lead lap.
Edwards, who did his patented back flip off the window ledge of his No. 99 Ford after the race, led eight times for 115 laps, including the final 36. He was one of four Chase contenders finishing ahead of Stewart, tightening the overall points battle.
The 26-year-old Edwards, who is not eligible for rookie of the year because he ran 13 races at the end of the 2004 season, also won in June at Pocono.
Edwards' Roush Racing teammates Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle finished third, fifth and seventh. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who dominated the early part of the race and led a race-high 142 laps, was fourth; Jamie McMurray was sixth, and Jeff Burton eighth. Earnhardt, McMurray and Burton all failed to qualify for the Chase.
Newman, who began the day third in the points, finished a lap down in 23rd and lost considerable ground.
Heading to Texas for next Sunday's race, Stewart and Johnson still have a cushion over the rest of the Chase field. Biffle is 75 points behind Stewart in third. Martin is sixth, 143 behind, with Kenseth 155 back.
"We did what we had to do today," Stewart said. "We didn't have the best call, but we ran pretty well and we gained some points. Now, we just have to keep it going."