Edwards Prevails in Bristol
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 16, 2014 | 9:35 P.M. EST
Carl Edwards captured the 22nd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of his career. (Photo: Getty Images)
Carl Edwards outlasted the field on older tires, leading the final 78 laps, to win Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the point for good on a restart with 40 laps to go and went on to score his first win of the season. It was the 22nd career Sprint Cup Series win for Edwards in a race that was delayed for three hours and twenty minutes by rain.
The race also included a somewhat bizarre ending when a mistake by an official in the flag stand, who inadvertently leaned on an override switch, illuminated a bank of the track’s caution lights forcing NASCAR to display the yellow flag with three laps remaining.
The caution wiped out a more than two second lead Edwards enjoyed over Stenhouse Jr., but before NASCAR could restart for a green-white-checkered finish, the skies opened up again with rain and the race was declared official.
Edwards credited crew chief Jimmy Fennig with making the call to stay out rather than pit for tires when caution flew 70 laps from the end of the race.
“It’s just an awesome night,” Edwards said. “We’re in the Chase and we’re gonna go win this championship. I just can’t believe we turned this thing around. We were terrible on Saturday, so I’m just glad we turned it around. Jimmy is the man.”
Stenhouse scored his best career Sprint Cup Series finish in second.
“We're having a lot of fun,” said Stenhouse Jr. “We're just slowly working and getting better and better. I thought we were a lot better than our finish last week at Las Vegas except I sped on pit road. I think we've got some good cars and everybody at the shop is working hard on building those.”
Aric Almirola had his best career finish in third with Tony Stewart and Marcos Ambrose rounding out the top five.
Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Kyle Larson completed the first ten finishers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Auto Club Speedway next Sunday afternoon.
How Edwards Won: Edwards scored his third career Bristol victory Sunday and pit strategy helped him to the front of the field. Rather than pit with the leader with 70 laps remaining, crew chief Fennig made the call to keep the No. 99 Ford on track. Despite having older tires, Edwards was able to maintain that advantage the rest of the way including outrunning Stenhouse Jr. on what turned out to be the final restart of the night.
What Else Happened: Drivers in the lead had trouble all day (and night) including Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick among others, who all were at the front of the field but experienced a variety of issues to take them from contention. After the long red flag for rain, the racing was intense when the skies finally cleared with a number of tight battles going on all around the track.
Who Else had a Good Day: Stenhouse Jr. bested his previous career finish of third with his runner-up effort….Almirola had two fourth place finishes to his credit before Sunday’s third place performance…..Stewart was finally competitive after struggling in the early going and scored his seventh career Bristol top 10 finish in 30 career starts….rookie Kyle Larson followed up his second place Nationwide Series run on Saturday with a tenth Sunday night.
Who had a Bad Day: Harvick looked like he would contend for a second win of the season until a broken oil line sent his car into the wall, the impact triggering a fire on the No. 4 Chevrolet…..Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray were also swept up in the incident…..Kenseth was run into under caution by Timmy Hill, but that impact didn’t seem to hurt the JGR Toyota. Kenseth rocketed his way to the front of the field again before encountering more problems later,
Quote of the Day: "I thought man, I shouldn't be doing this....I was really nervous.” – Carl Edwards on his post-race celebration backflip in the rain.
Other Notables: Almirola and Ambrose gave Richard Petty Motorsports two drivers in the top five for only the fourth time in the organization’s history…..Jeff Gordon is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all four races of the season…..Dale Earnhardt Jr. (24th) ended an eight race streak of top-10 finishes dating back to last season.