Carl Edwards Dominates For Fourth Win At Bristol Motor Speedwayby Hunter Thomas April 17, 2016 0 comments
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Carl Edwards led 276 laps in Sunday’s Food City 500 to win his fourth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It had been two years since Edwards visited Victory Lane at The Last Colosseum, but on Sunday, he started on the Coors Light Pole and absolutely dominated to earn his first win of the 2016 season. Throughout the afternoon, he was challenged by former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth and former teammate, Kurt Busch. Edwards took over the lead for the final time on lap 397 when he made his way around Busch.
“Just a real testament to our team – we have really fast race cars,” Edwards said. “Those restarts are tough, everybody is so good. Kurt (Busch) does an amazing job, I don’t know if his drag racing or something is paying off, but I have to learn what he’s doing. He could get so much grip down on the bottom. Just a lot of fun, really good day and really proud of my guys – flawless on pit road. This is such a special place to win and really proud of my team.”
Edwards may have had a great afternoon, but his teammates certainly didn’t. Denny Hamlin struggled to bring home a 20th place finish. Matt Kenseth, who led 142 laps and finished 36th, as well as Kyle Busch, who finished 38th had tire issues during the 500-lap event. Between the three drivers, they brought out five cautions.
“So yes, the answer is when you leave the racetrack, the first thing on my mind right now is Matt,” Gibbs said when asked if there would be mixed emotions following Sunday’s win. “Every single week he’s been up front, had a chance, I think, to lead laps and have a chance to win, and something happens to him.
“So you feel awful. You call him on the way home,” Gibbs continued. “And Denny, of course, and Kyle today.
“So it is in some ways, it’s a thrill, though, to win, and to see Comcast and everybody with us in the winner’s circle, you know, that’s certainly a high.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an incredible rally to finish second on Sunday. He had electric issues at the beginning of the race and fell all the way back to 40th, two laps down. In the closing laps, he held off Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott to finish runner-up. Earnhardt Jr. now has five top-10 finishes this season.
“We had a lot of luck on those last several restarts,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You start on the outside and just gain some spots just being on the right lane. We didn’t have a good enough car to run in the top 5 today, but Greg (Ives, crew chief) and those guys did a great job getting our laps back. We had a dead battery at the start of the race; something bad like that, same thing I think happened to the No. 22 (Joey Logano). That cost us two laps early in the race and we worked real hard.”
Kurt Busch is a five-time winner at Bristol Motor Speedway, but on Sunday, he had to settle for a third place finish. On the final restart of the day on lap 495, he was on the bottom groove with Edwards up top alongside of him. The two drivers are both strong at the speedway, but in the end, he not only fell behind Edwards, but Earnhardt Jr. was able to get around him. Sunday’s finish marks the team’s best effort so far this season.
“We just battled through it,” Busch said. “Junior had trouble at the start and I was 40th when we started the race. One car at a time. One set of tires at a time. And then we were in great position around lap 350. We got the lead from (Carl) Edwards for a little bit. And we just kept working on it. And there’s nothing more that I could have gotten out of the car. I’m really happy with the way that everybody worked together. I shouldn’t be happy about finishing 3rd, but I’ll take it. It’s just a great effort. And the way that this team has come together is perfect. We just need to find that last little bit.”
After having a loose wheel, rookie Chase Elliott battled back from two laps down to finish fourth. The effort is his best finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Towards the end of the race, he was strong on the late race restarts, battling up front with the leaders, but he just wasn’t fast enough to pull off the victory.
“I hated to have a loose wheel, but stuff happens,” Elliott said. “The guys did a good job having a good pit stop under green. We only ended up losing two laps and that gave us a shot to get back. One down, and then trying to get back to the lead lap. It was a long day but I’m definitely proud of the effort. We’re chipping away, just not close enough.”
Rounding out the top-five was Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne. The finish marked only his second top-five finish in the series. His only other top-five came when he won the Daytona 500 back in 2011.
“It was a lot of battling back,” Bayne said. “We went through a lot of adversity to get there, but we just didn’t give up. We had a really good race car. That’s what paid off. You can’t come back if you don’t have good race cars and we’ve got that now. I need to minimize my mistakes going forward, but we were able to make mistakes and get back to a top-5 finish. I kept getting on the bottom on restarts every time, but it came back to me at the end. We were able to start on the top those last three and that’s really what got us in the top-five.”
Finishing six was Matt DiBenedetto in the BK Racing No. 83 Cosmo Motors Toyota Camry. Prior to Sunday, his best finish was an 18th that he earned last season during the May race at Talladega Superspeedway.
“A sixth-place finish for BK Racing and for all my guys, this is like a win for us,” DiBenedetto said. “I apologize for being so emotional, but this is an incredible run. I can’t thank my team enough, my crew chief Gene Need and everyone on this team for working so hard and busting their tails for me to be able to drive this race car in the Sprint Cup Series.
Kevin Harvick finished seventh, followed by Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.
The Food City 500 saw 15 cautions, as well as 16 leads changes among seven drivers.
Kevin Harvick jumps up two spot to become the new championship point leader. He leads Carl Edwards by one point. Jimmie Johnson falls to third, 16 points back, and Joey Logano jumps up one spot to fourth, 21 points back. After the terrible afternoon, Busch falls to fifth, 25 back from Harvick.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will visit Richmond International Raceway on Sunday, April 24 for the Toyota Owners 400. Coverage for the race will broadcast live on FOX and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 1 p.m. ET.