Edwards Claims Richmond Nail Biter
RICHMOND, Va. – Carl Edwards managed to steal the spotlight from the battle for the final positions in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup by winning Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Int’l Raceway.
Edwards, who consistently ran in the top-10 all night but never near the front, was preparing for what was expected to be his final pit stop when he got a huge lucky break. With 58 laps left Jimmie Johnson, who was struggling through yet another rough night, blew a right front tire and hit the wall to bring out a caution flag.
The caution couldn’t have come at a better time for Edwards. The field was in the middle of a series of green flag pit stops and Edwards had not yet made his stop. The caution period trapped most of the race leaders, including Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, a lap down.
With most of the top competition suddenly out of the way, the only challenge in front of Edwards was the No. 78 Chevrolet of Kurt Busch. The remaining 11 lead lap cars came down pit road under caution for fresh tires, with Edwards getting off pit road with the race lead.
When the green flag waved with 49 laps left Edwards managed to get a great restart and pull away from Busch and the rest of the field. But what Edwards didn’t know was Ryan Newman was on his way to the front.
Newman, in need of a victory to make the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, was roaring up through the field. With 15 laps left he managed to make his way to second and began to challenge Edwards for the race lead.
With 11 laps left Newman made his move, going to the outside of Edwards as the pair raced out of turn four. Newman was able to clear Edwards to take the lead going down the backstretch with 10 laps left, dropping Edwards to second.
But the race was far from over.
Two laps later Bowyer suddenly spun at the exit of turn four, forcing NASCAR to wave the caution flag. The spin was controversial because if Newman had won the race, Bowyer’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. would miss the Chase. (Click Here For Post-Race Reactions From The Chase Contenders).
With the caution flag out and tires at a premium at Richmond, all of the lead lap cars came down pit road with six laps left. Paul Menard pulled a strategy card, taking only two tires to inherit the race lead. Behind him Edwards managed to get off pit road in second, while Newman came off pit road in fifth.
The field returned to racing with three laps left. Edwards and Menard made contact as they raced to the green flag and Edwards beat Menard to the start/finish line by nearly a full car length. Normally that would have resulted in a black flag from NASCAR, but series officials said the contact is what slowed Menard down and they deemed Edwards getting to the line first acceptable.
Once out front Edwards was long gone, cruising to a .669-second victory over Busch.
“That’s my pit crew that won this race for us,” Edwards said after his second victory of the season. “Just an awesome job by them. It’s so cool to put Kellogg’s in victory lane.”
Edwards was adamant following the victory that it would be him claiming the 2013 Sprint Cup championship at the end of the season.
“We’re going to win the championship. That’s our mission,” Edwards said. “That seemed like a crazy idea about a month and a half ago and Jimmy (Fennig, crew chief) and all these guys have buckled down. Everybody at the shop, all the guys that build these race, all of our Ford teammates, Brad (Keselowski), Joey (Logano), everybody rallied together.”
Newman finished third and missed the Chase, losing a tiebreaker with Truex. Jamie McMurray and Menard completed the top five. Matt Kenseth, Truex, polesitter Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. filled the top 10.