What is it with Carl Edwards and gymnastics? First, it was the back flip. Now, instead of a hand stand, Edwards continued to pioneer another signature move Sunday: a fan stand.
After winning the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway and snapping a 70-race winless streak, Edwards grabbed the checkered flag then raced up a ladder, through a catchfence gate and into the frontstretch grandstand for an impromptu celebration.
Although track security stood close by as a precaution, Edwards was swallowed up in a wave of happy humanity for the second time in two weeks.
"Fortunately they all seemed to be fans of mine, a lot of people," Edwards said. "But everybody's really excited. I had never really considered doing that until that gate was open at Texas, until the hole in the fence at Texas was right in front of me."
Edwards admitted he got the idea from wrestler John Cena.
"He was at a Gillette commercial shoot with us," Edwards said. "There were some fans there. They just couldn't believe he did it. That's kind of what sparked the idea. Those are moments, the two times I've done that, I'll never forget those. It's really neat to go up there. I would highly recommend it to anybody. It feels real neat."
Edwards never felt ill at ease while in the sea of people, but he was churning inside well before that. He knew his car was close to running out of fuel as the final few laps wound down, but had no option other than to stay in the lead and hope for the best.
"You've chosen this path and you're just hoping that everything works out, that the race goes the distance, that the amount of fuel I was saving, I was hoping that was the right amount," Edwards said. "... I forgot what that felt like until that feeling in my stomach came on with two laps to go, then I remembered.
"My stomach was still hurting just from the nervousness. There's so much to be gained by winning a race. It's such a gutsy call to stay out there and stretch your fuel. You just have to sit and wait. Those are some long laps, those last few laps."
The win capped a perfect weekend for Edwards, who won the pole on Friday, topped the leaderboard in both of Saturday's practices, and then captured the Nationwide race.
It appeared that Toyota teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch had the better of Edwards when the race restarted on Lap 229. All three had pitted for the final time four laps earlier, and would have to get more than 80 laps on one tank of fuel.
"I wasn't sure exactly what our status was," he said. "I don't think [crew chief Bob Osborne] wanted to say it over the radio. He just didn't want to tell me. But I didn't know what was going on.
"I thought we were 12 [laps] short. Then the caution came out. I thought we were maybe six short or something like that."
But Edwards went ahead and pressed the issue, pulling up behind Hamlin and eventually grabbing the lead on Lap 267.
Edwards' last Cup win came at Homestead in 2008. But he said he never lost conviction in himself or his team.
"I have a lot of confidence," Edwards said. "[Owner Jack Roush] has a lot of confidence. Bob does, too. We all work very hard. So we expect out of ourselves, the people around us, to win. We've had a lot of success before, and with that comes a little more expectation, not just from the outside but from within.
"I'm very proud of how our team has come together through, you know, this past year and a half or two years since we've won. I'm very proud to be a part of this team because we very easily could have fallen apart."