EDWARDS WINS SUBWAY FRESH FIT 500™
EDWARDS ENDS 70-RACE SLUMP BY WINNING SUBWAY FRESH FIT 500 AT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
In a race that seemed to provide an ever-changing group of contenders throughout Sunday afternoon, Carl Edwards outlasted a galaxy of star drivers in a green-white-checkered finish to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500™ NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Edwards celebrated his victory by making his patented back-flip off his #99 Subway Ford's driver-side window ledge. After a win at PIR in 2010, he jumped into the crowd with the checkered flag in hand. He repeated his mosh-pit style celebration again on Sunday with perhaps a bit more caution this time. Still, the fans loved it, and so did he. He said, "This win means as much, if not more, as any win I've ever had."
Edwards had reason to be happy. He broke a 70-race winless streak, dating back to 2011. It was Edwards' 20th career Sprint Cup win as he led the most laps with 122.
"I thought it was going to be easy until we got that caution," said Edwards of veteran Ken Schrader's scrape of the wall with less than three laps to go. It set up the overtime laps.
"I can't tell you how cool it is," said Edwards from victory lane. "I love Phoenix."
Earlier in the day he told a news conference crowd he was optimistic about his chances in the race supported by his prime sponsor, Subway, and it came true.
Jimmie Johnson nipped Denny Hamlin by inches for second place. Hamlin made a dash low on the white flag lap and a three-wide group of Johnson, Hamlin, and fourth place Brad Keselowski emerged unscathed and in tight formation. Johnson made it to the finish line ahead of Hamlin by racing hard on an outside line.
Pit strategy frequently affected the leader board. An early caution flag after 20 laps allowed the back half of the lead lap cars to come in for tires and fuel. From that point until nearly halfway through the 312 laps, crew chiefs shuffled the field by choosing to pit or stay on the track.
Hamlin, who had to start in the back of the field with teammate Kyle Busch because of pre-race engine changes, said of his team's strategy, "We didn't have a third place car, but my crew gave me lots of opportunities."
Johnson leads the point standings after the season's second event and called it "a very good start for the season." The five-time series champion also felt it was important for his crew to provide strategic assistance, saying, "We only made one four-tire stop, and when we did we lost a lot of track position. It was key to keep track position."
Pit strategy made leaders out of Juan Pablo Montoya and Greg Biffle and dealt many others into the Top 10 at stages during the race. Even a bad break allowed pole sitter Mark Martin to lead extra laps shortly before the midway mark. He had come to pit road for an unscheduled green-flag stop because of a vibration on the right side of his race car. That permitted him to stay out when everyone else pitted on lap 100. Even Edwards earned his first lead on a lap 142 pit stop, thanks to crew chief Jimmy Fennig's strategy.
While Edwards and several other Sprint Cup drivers leave the Valley of the Sun with sunny optimism, they will look forward to the second weekend in November when they return to Phoenix International Raceway for the season's penultimate race. The Chase point standings will be uppermost in all the minds of the contenders come fall. Fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets early for the best seating locations at Zoomtown USA.
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