Carl Edwards will contend for the title at Homestead. In a marathon rain soaked day, Edwards did what he needed to do and secured his spot in the Final 4 with a win in the rain shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday night.
“I actually enjoyed it,” Edwards said of the pressure leading up to the race. “That pressure was really mounting and obviously this is what we had to do.”
Rain delayed the start of the race five hours and turned the event from a day race into a night one. The race was finally started under a green-yellow condition after the field ran 23 pace laps to finish drying the track. The yellow was finally lifted on the seventh lap and it remained dry until 40 laps from the end.
For much of those laps, the race belonged to Joey Logano who led a career Texas best and race high 178 laps. He lost ground during a round of green flag pit stops however when Martin Truex Jr. followed by Edwards pitted on lap 188, a lap earlier than Logano. After the stops cycled through, Truex led, Edwards was second, and Logano had been shuffled to third. Truex would go on to lead 66 laps.
As more rain threatened, Edwards, knowing he needed to win in order to advance, tired to close the gap on Truex but could never get close enough to vie for the lead.
It all changed on lap 255 during the races sixth of eight cautions. Edwards’ crew delivered him a perfect pit stop allowing the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to grab the lead from Truex. From there Edwards would go on to lead the final 36 laps. Logano was able to get by Truex for second but couldn’t close the gap.
“We just lost our track position on a green-flag cycle and got our balance off a little bit,” Logano said. “We got it fixed and got it going and had a good restart at the end to get back to second but it seemed like we needed maybe five or 10 more laps to try to catch the 19 there. We were making up about three-tenths a lap when the caution came out. It is what it is. We are disappointed with second which is a good thing. I think we are in right now but it sure would have been nice to be locked in. It sure would make it easier next week.”
The rain came again in earnest and the races final caution came out on lap 291 with Edwards leading. NASCAR soon lost the track, brought the field down pit road and parked them. Shortly after, NASCAR called the race and declared Edwards the winner.
“We were in a bad spot if we went green again,” Edwards joked after the race was called. “But the last run before it rained I think we could’ve held them off. I’m not sure. He (Joey Logano) was really good on the bottom. My car was starting to go away. I ran pretty hard there at the start, but man, that’s fun. And, Martin (Truex Jr.) did a great job. If we wouldn’t have beat him off of pit road obviously we wouldn’t have got this, but man it was really fun chasing him down and racing with him the run before that.”
The win came a week after he crashed out at Martinsville, and almost a year after Edwards was eliminated from the Final 4 in a rain-shortened race at Phoenix.
With his fourth Texas win and the 28th of his career, Edwards can now attempt to atone for his heartbreak in 2011 when he lost the NASCAR Sprint Cup to Tony Stewart at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a tiebreaker.
“This team is really worked hard all year and man it’s just really cool,” Edwards said. “That’s all we said we needed was a shot and now we’re going to go to Homestead and we’re going to do what we have to do. This was a great test. We came here and knew what we had to do, we performed the way we needed to and I really believe we can do that at Homestead.”
Behind Logano and Truex, Chase Elliott who was suffering from flu like symptoms but never called on the services of a relief driver finished fourth and Kyle Busch who had a terrible weekend, crashing in practice and struggling most of the race Sunday rallied to come home fifth.
Kevin Harvick also struggled much of the race but finished sixth, Matt Kenseth was seventh, followed by Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman rounding out the top 10. Chase drivers Jimmie Johnson finished 11th, and Kurt Busch 20th. Pole sitter Austin Dillon led only six laps but ran near the front late. He got together with Harvick while running sixth and spun out on lap 263 hitting the wall hard exiting turn 4. He later blamed Harvick, while Harvick said the contact was unintentional. Dillon finished 37th with a DNF. The full results can be found here.
The next stop is the penultimate race of the Sprint Cup season, the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway will be held next Sunday. Live coverage will be on NBC with the green flag coming out just after 2:30 p.m. ET.