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Gibbs Wrestles Charlotte Away From Hendrick

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 25 2015
Carl Edwards celebrates his victory in the Coca-Cola 600 with fans in the stands at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night. Edwards' victory capped an impressive couple of weeks for his Joe Gibbs Racing team.  (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Carl Edwards celebrates his victory in the Coca-Cola 600 with fans in the stands at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night. Edwards’ victory capped an impressive couple of weeks for his Joe Gibbs Racing team. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – In recent years, Hendrick Motorsports’ domination of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s May race weeks had become fairly common; however, 2015 will be remembered as the year Joe Gibbs Racing stole that sprint-logo-08organization’s thunder.

For two weeks JGR dominated NASCAR Sprint Cup activities at the 1.5-mile track. First, Denny Hamlin earned the pole for the Sprint All-Star race and then recorded the Huntersville, N.C.-based organization’s first victory in the special event.

Next on the agenda was Coca-Cola 600 qualifying. This time it was Matt Kenseth who stole the headlines with his pole winning performance. And, finally, it became Carl Edwards’ turn as the Columbia, Mo., driver snapped a 31-race winless streak with his first-ever victory in stock car racing’s longest race. Edwards led three times for 25 laps, including the final 21, in the 400-lap event. However, when Kenseth’s and Hamlin’s performances were included, JGR drivers led on eight occasions for 104 laps.

Gibbs said such an accomplishment was a time for reflection.

“I think the biggest thrill in pro sports is you know you’re going against the best people in the world,” Gibbs said. “The thrill is you get a chance to try and match up with them. We know how dominant they’ve been. It’s a thrill for me to be a part of a sport where you have a chance to do this.”

Gibbs noted his organization had been “way off” on its intermediate track program.

“It’s really been a disappointment for us for quite a while,” the team owner said. “We’ve worked extremely hard. It shows you how hard our sport is because

Members of Joe Gibbs Racing huddle up after winning the 600. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Members of Joe Gibbs Racing huddle up after winning the 600. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

we’ve had a hard time catching up. I’m not saying we’ve caught up, but for the last two races here, it’s a big deal for us for all those reasons.”

Edwards’ first victory with his new team allows him to join teammates Hamlin and Kenseth in the title Chase.

“Now that we have a win we don’t have to worry about points as much,” Edwards said after acquiring his 24th career victory. “We don’t have to focus on little things. Now we can just focus on building that championship run and that’s really the way these seasons go now. You get that win, you put yourself in position, and then you focus on making something happen those final 10 races. Now we can do that. You go there a little more relaxed. We can focus on being the best team we can be in those final 10 races.”

Edwards, who took a 4.785-second victory over former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle, knew early in the event he didn’t possess the fastest car. But crew chief Darian Grubb’s strategy put his driver in position to acquire Toyota’s 300th victory in NASCAR’s three national touring series.

“Two runs from the end we realized that this was going to have the potential for a fuel-mileage race because we hit right on our fuel windows,” Grubb said. “Then that last caution came out 12 laps before the fuel window that we wanted to pit on and everybody pitted there because we had to.  It was basically the end of the fuel run.

“When the actual last caution came out (on lap 338) it was right on the lap we were going to pit under the green flag to make it to the end. I was really surprised that a lot of people didn’t come down and pit when we did. We were actually planning to do two tires just to make sure we could get enough fuel to finish and since hardly anybody came, we took four, fueled up and we were good to the end.”

Ironically, it was Grubb who was Tony Stewart’s crew chief in 2011 when Edwards unsuccessfully competed against the duo for the championship. That night Grubbs’ pit strategy defeated Edwards; this time, it landed him in victory lane. And gave Joe Gibbs Racing a sweep of May race weeks at Charlotte.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Coca-Cola 600

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Sunday, May 24, 2015

 

  1. (3) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 400, $363390.
  2. (4) Greg Biffle, Ford, 400, $277263.
  3. (15) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 400, $217255.
  4. (1) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400, $252716.
  5. (10) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 400, $182350.
  6. (19) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 400, $166570.
  7. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400, $172911.
  8. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400, $143720.
  9. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 400, $174045.
  10. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 400, $140045.
  11. (17) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400, $157301.
  12. (33) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 400, $128685.
  13. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 400, $161793.
  14. (23) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 400, $120735.
  15. (18) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 400, $156371.
  16. (11) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400, $147271.
  17. (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 399, $146046.
  18. (28) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 399, $103910.
  19. (22) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 399, $136826.
  20. (24) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 399, $140368.
  21. (12) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 399, $132399.
  22. (20) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 398, $111760.
  23. (34) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 398, $128993.
  24. (26) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 398, $128305.
  25. (9) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 398, $129468.
  26. (31) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 397, $116518.
  27. (27) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 397, $141210.
  28. (37) Cole Whitt, Ford, 396, $113343.
  29. (30) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 395, $125618.
  30. (25) Michael McDowell, Ford, 394, $97335.
  31. (40) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 393, $97185.
  32. (36) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 393, $95560.
  33. (39) David Gilliland, Ford, 392, $115957.
  34. (42) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 392, $95285.
  35. (38) Josh Wise, Ford, 392, $98135.
  36. (43) Alex Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 389, $97535.
  37. (29) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 382, $102761.
  38. (41) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Engine, 377, $89413.
  39. (32) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 375, $85350.
  40. (13) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 370, $129286.
  41. (7) David Ragan, Toyota, Engine, 353, $105164.
  42. (16) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, Engine, 281, $73350.
  43. (35) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Accident, 135, $77850.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  147.803 mph.

Time of Race:  04 Hrs, 03 Mins, 34 Secs. Margin of Victory:  4.785 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 39 laps.

Lead Changes:  22 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Kenseth 0; C. Edwards 1-2; M. Kenseth 3-27; D. Gilliland 28; M. Kenseth 29; J. Logano 30-43; D. Hamlin 44-63; K. Harvick 64-78; Kurt Busch 79; B. Keselowski 80; K. Harvick 81-90; M. Truex Jr. 91; B. Keselowski 92-93; J. Logano 94-96; Kurt Busch 97-189; C. Edwards 190-191; M. Truex Jr. 192-236; Kurt Busch 237-260; M. Truex Jr. 261-329; D. Hamlin 330-362; M. Truex Jr. 363-378; K. Harvick 379; C. Edwards 380-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  M. Truex Jr. 4 times for 131 laps; Kurt Busch 3 times for 118 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 53 laps; M. Kenseth 2 times for 26 laps; K. Harvick 3 times for 26 laps; C. Edwards 3 times for 25 laps; J. Logano 2 times for 17 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 3 laps; D. Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick – 473; M. Truex Jr. – 432; J. Logano – 407; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 401; J. Johnson – 393; B. Keselowski – 381; M. Kenseth – 372; J. Mcmurray – 353; J. Gordon – 346; K. Kahne – 345; R. Newman – 343; A. Almirola – 339; P. Menard – 336; Kurt Busch – 327; D. Hamlin – 321; C. Edwards – 312.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 25 2015
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