By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Carl Edwards' march to victory ended early, and short of the checkered flag, needing a half-gallon of gas.
Edwards ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of Sunday's AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, and Kevin Harvick sped past the No. 99 Ford to register his fourth win of the season.
"We played the strategy very well," said Edwards, who pitted for the final time on Lap 248 of 312 and tried to stretch his fuel supply to the end. "We did a really good job, but we just needed a little more fuel. We just miscalculated.
"I thought we were a lap to the good. I was saving just a little bit of fuel, but obviously not enough. I don't know if I could have saved a lap and kept Kevin behind me in hindsight, but that's a tough way to lose one there. We haven't run out of fuel in a long time."
Edwards was credited with a 21st-place finish, the last driver on the lead lap.
Halfway through the race, he survived a close call that could have altered the course of the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship battle. Edwards' Ford was the middle car in a three-wide sandwich as he, Harvick and series leader Jimmie Johnson entered Turn 1 on Lap 163.
Harvick was on the inside, and Edwards slid into Johnson's Chevrolet, which was closest to the wall. Johnson made a masterful save, fell back to 25th in the running order but rallied to finish third and extend his lead over second-place Matt Kenseth to 28 points going into next Sunday's finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For Edwards, it was an uncomfortable moment.
"Yeah, I definitely did not mean to hit him," Edwards said. "He did a heck of a job saving it, and I'm just glad he saved it. I did not want to be part of the championship in that manner."
RALLY FOR JUNIOR
Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought his No. 88 Chevrolet to pit road for an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 63 and lost a lap in the process. The culprit? A loose wheel.
Earnhardt, however, was back on the lead lap as the highest-scored lapped car after NASCAR called the fourth caution of the race for Dave Blaney's spin in Turn 1 on Lap 132.
A combination of hard driving and astute pit strategy on the part of crew chief Steve Letarte got Earnhardt back in the top five, and ultimately he delivered a fourth-place finish.
The rally didn't surprise Earnhardt, who posted his seventh top 10 in the last eight races.
"We had a fast car," Earnhardt said. "I thought Steve Letarte could get some good strategy to get us back up into the top 10 and top five, and I was real happy with the way we were able to rebound."
GAIN FOR KAHNE
Kasey Kahne and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team are doing their best to finish off an up-and-down season strongly.
Kahne's performance in the Chase has been, to say the least, erratic. Even after posting his second straight top-five finish Sunday at Phoenix, where he ran second to Kevin Harvick, Kahne is 12th in the Chase standings.
But with Sunday's success, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet already is pointing to 2014.
"I get down once in a while and feel pretty bad about what's going on," Kahne said. "We've had a lot of things happen to us this year, but we've battled back the last two weeks. We ran pretty good, fifth and second, so I'm happy about that.
"We'll try to finish off strong at Homestead with another top five and maybe prepare a little better for next year and try to have a little more consistent, stronger year from start to finish."