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Carl Edwards Gets His First Victory Since 2011

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 3 2013

Carl Edwards is a Sprint Cup winner again. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

RacinToday.com

Carl Edwards held off five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, defending champion Brad Keselowski and an emptying fuel cell to win Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.

The victory broke a 70-race winless drought for the Roush Fenway Racing driver.

“One of the coolest wins of my life,” Edwards said in Victory Lane.

Edwards appeared headed to an easy win as he had a comfortable lead with three laps to go. But a caution flag waved and that sent the race to a green/white/checkered finish.

On the restart, Edwards got push from Keselowski and bolted out to a two car length lead.

Johnson finished second, Denny Hamlin – who made an apron-pass on the final lap – finished third and Keselowski fourth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth.

Edwards victory was by 1.02 seconds. His last victory came Las Vegas two years ago. The series heads to Vegas next weekend.

“When you’re struggling, it seems like time slows down,” Edwards said. “You’re working harder, you’re trying more, you’re questioning yourself more. … (Last year) was one of the longest years of my life, to work that hard and not get the victories.

“I’m very, very happy to be back in the mix here. A victory is huge for so many reasons. Last year we didn’t make the Chase. For me to sit home, while everybody was at the Chase stuff in Vegas—that was a little bit of a shock to me. I did not like that at all.

“So to get a victory helps us be in a better position for the Chase. It just feels good to win. So, yeah, I hope Denny’s right. I hope we’re relevant or more than relevant all year. I hope we dominate this thing.”

Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton rounded out the top 10.

Edwards No. 99 Ford Fusion led 67 straight green-flag laps after the restart on Lap 243, but Ken Schrader’s crash on Lap 309 sent the race to overtime and gave the crew chiefs of the leading cars nervous moments as they tried to recalculate fuel mileage.

The top-14 cars stayed out for a restart on Lap 315, and Edwards had enough gas to complete two laps and win the race.

On the last two restarts, Johnson felt Edwards played fast and loose with the zone, delineated by red marks on the wall, within which the leader is required to accelerate.

“I felt like Carl didn’t follow the restart protocol and was slower than the pace car on his last two restarts, and it gives the leader a huge advantage when that happens,” Johnson said. “You’re supposed to wait until you get between the two lines and take off, and this was all going on before (the restart zone).”

Edwards had a completely different view of the restart. Though Johnson said he made a point of maintaining pace car speed, Edwards thought Johnson was speeding up as the cars approached the start.

“Usually the guy in second hangs back a little bit, and he pulled up there and I thought, ‘Why’s he doing that?’” Edwards said. “Yeah, maybe I was slowing down, but I wasn’t trying to. I thought he was speeding up. I thought it was pretty genius what he was doing, because it kind of got me off of my game.

“But then, when I went, I think he maybe wasn’t looking at me or something, because he waited just a little bit too long to go. But, truthfully, that was not by design. I was not trying to do anything tricky. I thought he was.”

Danica Patrick’s hard crash on Lap 185 caused the sixth caution of the race. The right front tire on Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet SS exploded without warning as the car rolled through Turn 4. The car bounced off the outside wall into the path of David Ragan’s Ford.

The resulting collision ripped the driver’s-side door off Patrick’s car and knocked the protective foam out of the door frame. Patrick walked away from the wreck but ended the day in 39th place.

That caution proved a boon to her former car owner, Earnhardt, who was first off pit road for a restart on Lap 194. Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy took a liking to the clean air and remained on point, pacing teammate Johnson as the Hendrick Motorsports pair opened a one-second lead over Matt Kenseth in third.

Forty laps into the green-flag, Earnhardt had widened his edge over Johnson to .928 seconds before the yellow flag flew on Lap 236 for David Gilliland’s hard contact with the outside wall in Turn 1, the result of another blown right front tire.

That caution, the seventh of the race, put Kyle Busch back on the lead lap. Busch went a lap down after spinning into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 48 and persevered until he was awarded a free pass as the highest-scored lapped car when Gilliland wrecked.

Busch had started at the rear of the field because of an eleventh-hour engine change Sunday morning. The engine in his No. 18 Camry suffered a part failure during warmup, the result of a reassembly error.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Subway Fresh Fit 500

Phoenix International Raceway

Avondale, Arizona

Sunday, March 03, 2013

1. (15) Carl Edwards, Ford, 316, $293675.

2. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 316, $209686.

3. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 316, $157575.

4. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 316, $168076.

5. (21) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 316, $130750.

6. (13) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 316, $140083.

7. (9) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 316, $129841.

8. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 316, $132575.

9. (5) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 316, $131186.

10. (20) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 316, $96950.

11. (23) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 316, $111808.

12. (29) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 316, $111064.

13. (7) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 316, $125136.

14. (43) Casey Mears, Ford, 316, $105333.

15. (18) Aric Almirola, Ford, 316, $117886.

16. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #, Ford, 316, $125311.

17. (17) Greg Biffle, Ford, 316, $92925.

18. (22) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 316, $105914.

19. (2) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 316, $93000.

20. (16) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 316, $108866.

21. (1) Mark Martin, Toyota, 316, $92425.

22. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 316, $103995.

23. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 316, $119508.

24. (33) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 315, $99408.

25. (34) David Reutimann, Toyota, 315, $89233.

26. (32) Joey Logano, Ford, 315, $104708.

27. (25) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 315, $102920.

28. (27) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 315, $76350.

29. (30) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 313, $93672.

30. (37) David Stremme, Toyota, 313, $77475.

31. (41) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 311, $72810.

32. (38) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 309, $75125.

33. (26) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 306, $72500.

34. (42) Ken Schrader, Ford, Accident, 300, $72375.

35. (36) Josh Wise(i), Ford, 295, $72250.

36. (14) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 284, $104170.

37. (31) David Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 237, $71970.

38. (24) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 186, $75400.

39. (40) Danica Patrick #, Chevrolet, Accident, 184, $63400.

40. (10) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 137, $93558.

41. (28) Scott Speed, Ford, Brakes, 88, $55400.

42. (35) Mike Bliss(i), Toyota, Brakes, 34, $51400.

43. (39) Scott Riggs(i), Ford, Accident, 19, $47900.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 105.187 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 00 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.024 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 43 laps.

Lead Changes: 12 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M. Martin 1-49; J. Montoya 50-56; G. Biffle 57-64; J. Montoya 65-69; G. Biffle 70-100; M. Martin 101-126; B. Keselowski 127-142; D. Ragan 143-145; C. Edwards 146-189; J. Johnson 190; D. Reutimann 191; D. Earnhardt Jr. 192-238; C. Edwards 239-316.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Edwards 2 times for 122 laps; M. Martin 2 times for 75 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 1 time for 47 laps; G. Biffle 2 times for 39 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 16 laps; J. Montoya 2 times for 12 laps; D. Ragan 1 time for 3 laps; J. Johnson 1 time for 1 lap; D. Reutimann 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 12 in Points: J. Johnson – 90; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 82; Brad Keselowski – 82; D. Hamlin – 72; C. Bowyer – 72; G. Biffle – 66; M. Martin – 65; J. Gordon – 60; R. Stenhouse Jr. # – 60; A. Almirola – 60; C. Edwards – 59; M. Ambrose – 52.

(This story will be updated shortly)

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 3 2013
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