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Edwards Wins Texas; Earns Final Four Berth

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 7 2016
Carl Edwards, who began the weekend last in Chase points, won Sunday's rain-plagued Sprint Cup Series race in Texas and in doing so, advanced the the playoff finals. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Carl Edwards, who began the weekend last in Chase points, won Sunday’s rain-plagued Sprint Cup Series race in Texas and in doing so, advanced the playoff finals. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Rain returned to Texas Motor Speedway on Lap 293 of Sunday night’s AAA Texas 500, with Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship contender Carl Edwards in the lead and looking for a deluge.

sprint-logo-08Moments after parking his car on pit road at Texas Motor Speedway, Edwards was informed by NASCAR officials that the result was official _ and Cousin Carl had secured the second spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.

“This is huge. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. Man, it’s really cool,” said Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. “That’s all we said we needed was a shot. We performed the way we needed to and I think we can do that at Homestead.”

Edwards began the night last among the eight drivers looking to advance into NASCAR’s Final Four, 32 points behind six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports. The quickest route from Fort Worth to Homestead, Fla., was via a victory here.

“It’s really an amazing team I’ve got,” said Edwards, who is in his second season at JGR. “I appreciate Coach Gibbs allowing me to be a part of it. Anything short of a championship will be a disappointment. We need to go do it. It’s a huge opportunity. I’m really grateful to everybody that’s making it happen. It’s so much fun, just the idea of getting an opportunity to race for a championship.

“If we’re able to win that and stand with that championship trophy 14 days from now, we’re going to have earned it. That’s as good as it gets.”

Edwards notched his 28th career Cup victory in 443 series races, moving into a tie with Kurt Busch and NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White for 26th on the all-time wins list.

“We had a fast car all weekend,” said team-owner Gibbs. “A thrill for us. Just really proud of our team. We’ll tee-it-up and I think it’ll be a great race in Phoenix (next Sunday). I think everybody would have said Carl was a long shot to be able to get in and do this. Those are the great things we love about our sport.”

Edwards’ lead over second-place Joey Logano was 0.620-seconds when the race was red-flagged and ended under the night’s eighth caution. “When you’re that close to winning and you lead the most laps (178), second stings,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 AAA Ford Fusion fielded by Penske Racing. “That’s our goal every week, is to win. Anything short of that is a failure. I feel like we were so close today.”

Round 9 of the 10-race Chase will move to the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway next weekend with Johnson, Logano and Kyle Busch tied with 4,074 points and Matt Kenseth one point behind. However, Johnson and Edwards are locked into the Final Four via their victories in the first two events of the Round of 8. Johnson won last Sunday at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway.

“We’re in right now,” Logano said. “We were out going into this race. You know we did the best we could as far as leading laps and getting that bonus point, or two bonus points with the most laps-led as well. But we didn’t get the win part. That would have been nice.”

Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin of JGR is fifth in points with 4,072. Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing is sixth with 4,056, followed by Edwards (4,049 but locked-in) and SHR’s Kurt Busch with 4,040 _ 34 points behind the three leaders.

Through 251 laps, Logano had led three times for 178 laps after taking the point from pole-sitter Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing on Lap 6 of an event that started approximately six hours after its original 1 p.m. (CST) green flag time because of rain and subsequent track-drying efforts. Truex, one of eight drivers to lead the race, paced 66 laps with Edwards leading 36.

Edwards took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 258 with the help of an 11-second pit stop after the night’s sixth caution, brought out by Dillon’s slide in his No. 3 Realtree/Bad Boy Chevrolet SS through Turns 3 and 4 of TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval. Edwards had entered the pits second but beat Truex and Logano onto the track. Edwards never surrendered the lead in an event that was scheduled for 334 laps/501 miles.

“Everyone on the team stepped-up to put everything we had into this race,” said Dave Rogers, Edwards’ crew chief. “We had an opportunity at the end of the race to showcase that and take the lead on pit road, and the rest is history. The rain was a challenge because we saw the small cell coming. We knew the track was going to get wet, but we didn’t know if we were going to lose the track, if NASCAR would try to throw the green again. Somewhat of a gamble. That was a stressful but exciting time.”

Bring it on, Edwards said. “I actually enjoyed it,” said Edwards, alluding to the self-imposed pressure of a “must-win” performance. “This is what we had to do. My pit crew worked really hard this year and I can’t thank them enough. We got a shot at the championship and that’s all we wanted this year.”

Edwards scored his fourth Cup win at TMS (2005 and a sweep in 2008), second only to Johnson’s six in the series. Edwards also scored his fifth consecutive top-10 in Fort Worth at an average speed of 134.541 mph.

Truex, a non-Chaser, finished third in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota fielded by Furniture Row Racing. Cup rookie Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports battled through flu-like symptoms to finish fourth in the No. 24 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet SS.

Chasers occupied places five through seven on the results sheet. JGR’s Kyle Busch rallied for a fifth-place finish in his backup No. 18 M&Ms Toyota. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Harvick was sixth in the No. 4 Busch Beer Chevy SS and JGR’s Kenseth was seventh in the No. 20 DeWalt Flexvolt Camry. Non-Chaser Kasey Kahne of HMS was eighth in the No. 5 AARP Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS.

Chaser Hamlin was ninth in the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, with Johnson 11th in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy SS. Kurt Busch of SHR finished 20th and one-lap down in his No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevy SS.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – AAA Texas 500

Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth, Texas

Sunday, November 06, 2016

  1. (9) Carl Edwards (C), Toyota, 293.
  2. (2) Joey Logano (C), Ford, 293.
  3. (12) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 293.
  4. (11) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 293.
  5. (24) Kyle Busch (C), Toyota, 293.
  6. (3) Kevin Harvick (C), Chevrolet, 293.
  7. (7) Matt Kenseth (C), Toyota, 293.
  8. (31) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 293.
  9. (17) Denny Hamlin (C), Toyota, 293.
  10. (18) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 293.
  11. (19) Jimmie Johnson (C), Chevrolet, 293.
  12. (8) * Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 293.
  13. (16) Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 293.
  14. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 293.
  15. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 293.
  16. (20) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 293.
  17. (14) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 293.
  18. (25) Greg Biffle, Ford, 292.
  19. (15) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 292.
  20. (10) Kurt Busch (C), Chevrolet, 292.
  21. (30) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 292.
  22. (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 292.
  23. (28) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 291.
  24. (22) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 291.
  25. (27) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 291.
  26. (32) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 291.
  27. (29) Brian Scott #, Ford, 291.
  28. (6) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 290.
  29. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 290.
  30. (26) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 289.
  31. (23) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 288.
  32. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 287.
  33. (36) David Ragan, Toyota, 287.
  34. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Toyota, 285.
  35. (38) * Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 285.
  36. (39) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 280.
  37. (1) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 262.
  38. (35) * Ryan Ellis(i), Toyota, 261.
  39. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, Accident, 260.
  40. (40) * Josh Wise, Chevrolet, Electrical, 257.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  134.541 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 16 Mins, 00 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Caution.

Caution Flags:  8 for 37 laps.

Lead Changes:  12 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Dillon 1-5; J. Logano (C) 6-30; D. Ragan 31; J. Logano (C) 32-74; A. Dillon 75; D. Hamlin (C) 76; Kyle Busch (C) 77-78; J. Logano (C) 79-188; M. Truex Jr. 189-222; C. Elliott # 223-224; M. Truex Jr. 225-256; C. Elliott # 257; C. Edwards (C) 258-293.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Logano (C) 3 times for 178 laps; M. Truex Jr. 2 times for 66 laps; C. Edwards (C) 1 time for 36 laps; A. Dillon 2 times for 6 laps; C. Elliott # 2 times for 3 laps; Kyle Busch (C) 1 time for 2 laps; D. Hamlin (C) 1 time for 1 lap; D. Ragan 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Johnson (C) – 4,074; J. Logano (C) – 4,074; Kyle Busch (C) – 4,074; M. Kenseth (C) – 4,073; D. Hamlin (C) – 4,072; K. Harvick (C) – 4,056; C. Edwards (C) – 4,049; Kurt Busch (C) – 4,040; M. Truex Jr. – 2,265; B. Keselowski – 2,234; C. Elliott # – 2,223; K. Larson – 2,209; A. Dillon – 2,192; T. Stewart – 2,166; J. Mcmurray – 2,165; C. Buescher # – 2,143.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 7 2016
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