Carl Edwards' outlook for the Sprint Cup Chase is a heck of a lot better after Sunday night. The 35-year-old won the Coca-Cola 600, and as a result, he ensured passage to the Challenger Round with his first checkered flag of the 2015 season.
Without the win, Edwards would be sitting outside of the top 16. Instead, he's well inside the safety zone. You can see the full Sprint Cup standings below, courtesy of ESPN.com:
|Sprint Cup Chase Standings|
|4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||401||1|
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||432||0|
Here's a look at the rest of the Sprint Cup schedule following Sunday's race, per NASCAR.com:
|Sprint Cup Schedule—Post-Coca-Cola 600|
|FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks||Dover International Speedway||Sunday, May 31||1 p.m. ET|
|Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400||Pocono Raceway||Sunday, June 7||1 p.m. ET|
|Quicken Loans 400||Michigan International Speedway||Sunday, June 14||1 p.m. ET|
|Toyota-Save Mart 350||Sonoma Raceway||Sunday, June 28||3 p.m. ET|
|Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola||Daytona International Speedway||Sunday, July 5||7:45 p.m. ET|
|Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts||Kentucky Speedway||Saturday, July 11||7:30 p.m. ET|
|NASCAR Sprint Cup July New Hampshire Race||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||Sunday, July 19||1:30 p.m. ET|
|Crown Royal Presents the 'Your Hero's Name Here' 400 at the Brickyard||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||Sunday, July 26||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Pennsylvania 400||Pocono Raceway||Sunday, Aug. 2||1:30 p.m. ET|
|Cheez-It 355||Watkins Glen International||Sunday, Aug. 9||2 p.m. ET|
|Pure Michigan 400||Michigan International Speedway||Sunday, Aug. 16||2:30 p.m. ET|
|IRWIN Tools Night Race||Bristol Motor Speedway||Saturday, Aug. 22||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Bojangles' Southern 500||Darlington Raceway||Sunday, Sept. 6||7 p.m. ET|
|Federated Auto Parts 400||Richmond International Raceway||Saturday, Sept. 12||7:30 p.m.|
|MyAFibStory.com 400||Chicagoland Speedway||Sunday, Sept. 20||3 p.m. ET|
|Sylvania 300||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||Sunday, Sept. 27||2 p.m. ET|
|AAA 400||Dover International Speedway||Sunday, Oct. 4||2:30 p.m. ET|
|Bank of America 500||Charlotte Motor Speedway||Saturday, Oct. 10||7 p.m. ET|
|Hollywood Casino 400||Kansas Speedway||Sunday, Oct. 18||2:15 p.m. ET|
|Alabama 500||Talladega Superspeedway||Sunday, Oct. 25||2:30 p.m. ET|
|Goody's FAST PAIN RELIEF 500||Martinsville Speedway||Sunday, Nov. 1||1:15 p.m.|
|AAA Texas 500||Texas Motor Speedway||Sunday, Nov. 8||2 p.m. ET|
|Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500||Phoenix International Raceway||Sunday, Nov. 15||2:30 p.m. ET|
|Ford EcoBoost 400||Homestead-Miami Speedway||Sunday, Nov. 22||3 p.m. ET|
Races determined largely by fuel mileage and consumption, such as the Coca-Cola 600, definitely aren't for most NASCAR fans.
Edwards may not have had the best car on the night, but crew chief Darian Grubb timed the last pit stop perfectly. He ensured Edwards had just enough left in the tank to close out the win.
"That's what made the race for us," Edwards said of Grubb's gambit, per Fox Sports' Jared Turner. "That's what he does—he takes a mediocre day like that and he puts us in a good position."
Grubb was unapologetic with the nature of his team's victory, per Popular Speed:
POPULAR SPEED @POPULARSPEED
.@dariangrubb," It might be a fuel mileage win, but it's also whoever gets to the finish line first after 600 miles." #CocaCola6002015-5-25 03:14:33
At the end of the day, few will remember that Edwards somewhat lucked into the win. He prevailed within the rules of the sport, and that's all that matters.
Ask Martin Truex Jr. if he'd settle for a fuel-mileage win.
The 34-year-old picked up yet another top-10 finish, his 11th in 12 Sprint Cup races. Truex looked primed to win with a little under 40 laps to go, but he had to make one last pit stop. That ended up costing him a potential victory, and he settled for fifth.
Truex's frustration with the result was evident in his post-race comments, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck:
Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck
Martin Truex Jr. to PRN: "Hell, I didn't even know guys could make it on gas. I didn't know what was going on."2015-5-25 02:29:26
Fellow driver Brad Keselowski also felt the finale to the Coca-Cola 600 was somewhat unjust in terms of the most deserving driver:
Brad Keselowski @keselowski
Same here. Felt bad we finished 7th with a 2nd place car. Feel awful for Truex to not win. He deserved it. https://t.co/Gwkbl7ghjC2015-5-25 02:45:06
Kevin Harvick is the only driver with more points than Truex, but Harvick has the security that comes with winning a Sprint Cup race.
If the No. 78 keeps up this pace, then he should finish in the top 16. But it seems improbable that he'll continue racking up top-10 finish after top-10 finish. He'll likely fall back to earth at some point, and when he does, he might start slipping in the standings.
It would be a shame if Truex is unable to truly capitalize on his great start to the 2015 season with a trip to Victory Lane.
At least he's still in the top 16, which can't be said of Clint Bowyer, Danica Patrick and Greg Biffle. Those drivers are the first three out at the moment, and the gap between them and the Chase is only increasing, especially after Edwards leapfrogged the line.
Bowyer is 40 points behind Paul Menard, while Patrick and Biffle are 44 and 52 points back, respectively.
Obviously, it's way too early to begin panicking. The Challenger Round doesn't kick off until September, and Edwards is proof positive that a driver's fortunes can change radically in the space of one race.
All it takes is a confluence of events to fall in Bowyer's, Patrick's or Biffle's favor.