Carl Edwards booked his place in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup's Championship 4 by winning a rain-soaked AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on Sunday.
Officials called the race after 293 laps on account of rain showers.
As Xfinity Racing tweeted, nobody was happier to see the heavens open than Edwards:
XFINITY Racing @XFINITYRacing
#CarlEdwards team and fans right now... 🌧🌧🌧 is back @TXMotorSpeedway https://t.co/5Tz9yoYVJK2016-11-7 04:03:59
USA Today's Jeff Gluck thought Edwards responded brilliantly with his back against the wall in terms of his Chase position:
Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck
Carl Edwards hasn't won at Texas since 2008. What an incredible clutch performance when he had to win either Texas or Phoenix.2016-11-7 04:05:32
Winning a race because of inclement weather is anticlimactic, but it won't dampen the excitement for Edwards and his crew. NASCAR shared a clip when the race officially ended and Edwards was declared the winner:
Your winner: #CarlEdwards! Next stop: #Championship4 https://t.co/a3dhct8mzT2016-11-7 04:15:40
The No. 19 car edged out Joey Logano to earn the checkered flag. Below are the top 10 finishers:
|AAA Texas 500 Results: Top 10 Finishers|
|Pos.||Driver||Time Behind (Seconds)||Laps Led|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||2.624||66|
Edwards will join Jimmie Johnson, who had already qualified for the Championship 4:
|Chase for the Sprint Cup Standings|
Edwards got ahead of himself when adding his name to the championship grid, courtesy of NASCAR:
Not so fast, #CarlEdwards! #TheChase https://t.co/rGpYs2d2it2016-11-7 04:30:33
A pit stop on Lap 257 was the decisive moment in the race.
Martin Truex Jr. headed for pit road while in the lead, with Edwards close behind. A great stop by Edwards' crew got him into first place, and he didn't relinquish the lead for the remainder of the race.
Crew chief Dave Rogers shrewdly instructed Edwards to remain on the track when a slight drizzle began to hit the track. Had the rain quickly moved on and the green flag been waved again, Edwards likely would've fallen behind cars that had fresher tires and more fuel. Instead, Rogers' gambit paid off as the precipitation continued.
NASCAR Talk's Kelly Crandall noted Edwards wasn't taking any chances that could've cost him the victory:
Kelly Crandall @KellyCrandall
Carl Edwards is so nervous of messing something up. Even wants the team guiding him of how to come down pit road, where to stop, etc.2016-11-7 04:10:04
It was a poetic result after Edwards' 2015 title challenge ended at Phoenix International Raceway when wet conditions shortened the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500.
Rain was unquestionably the dominant theme Sunday.
The race was originally set to begin at 2 p.m. ET, but Mother Nature didn't cooperate. A steady shower fell at Texas Motor Speedway throughout the afternoon, and jet dryers worked for five-and-a-half hours to ensure the track was suitable for racing.
As a result, the green flag wasn't waved until a little after 8 p.m. ET, which left a lot of downtime for the drivers and their crews.
Alex Bowman's Nationwide team found an interesting way to kill time, courtesy of the crew's Twitter account:
Nationwide 88 @nationwide88
During the rain delay, the No. 8️⃣8️⃣ team, @AlexBRacing and @Ives_Greg participated in the #ManequinChallenge https://t.co/p4AhpiXOGK2016-11-6 20:44:08
Track officials knew the best way to keep fans entertained, as the Star-Telegram's Drew Davison shared:
Drew Davison @drewdavison
Texas Motor Speedway makes wise choice by putting #Cowboys game on Big Hoss during rain delay. https://t.co/zcsbqdjKDV2016-11-6 19:49:51
Considering the stakes, Sunday night couldn't have gone much worse for Kurt Busch. The 38-year-old entered the AAA Texas 500 in seventh place in the Chase standings, 18 points off younger brother Kyle (31) for the final spot in the Championship 4.
Kurt Busch went down a lap after getting passed by Truex on Lap 244, and on Lap 268, he was forced to serve a one-lap penalty after his pit crew fueled up the No. 41 car twice as the free pass car, per ESPN.com's Bob Pockrass.
Busch finished lowest—20th place—among the eight Chase drivers. With only one race remaining before the championship is on the line at the Ford EcoBoost 400, anything short of a win next week at Phoenix International Raceway won't be enough to salvage his title hopes.
Kevin Harvick fared better Sunday, placing sixth. He remains 18 points behind Kyle Busch, though, so he'll have plenty of work to do in Phoenix.
Only two points separate Logano, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, and one mistake could wreck their championship chances.
The Chase format may not be the best way to determine a champion, since it writes off a large chunk of the season. But with two Chase spots up for grabs, the Can-Am 500 won't be lacking in drama.
The drivers were already looking ahead after Sunday.
Kyle Busch talked about the upcoming race, per Dustin Long of NBC Sports: "We've just got to keep doing what we know how to do. We've got to make sure that we can run in the top five, we've got to make sure we can go to Victory Lane, if possible. We've had all the finishes that we need thus far. We’ve got to be able to go out one more week and get another one."
Edwards had a clear-cut goal after the win, per Pockrass: "Anything short of a championship will be a disappointment. We've got a championship-caliber team, parts, people and pit crew. We need to be able to go do it."