Carl Edwards Wins Kobalt Tools 500 as Championship Battle Gets Closer
Carl Edwards ran up front all the day, though the ability to save fuel at the end allowed him to sweep the Nationwide Series & Cup Series races, along with end his winless streak.
“It’s such a gutsy call to stay out there and stretch your fuel. You just have to sit and wait. Those are some long laps, those last few laps,” Edwards said.
Last April's Phoenix Raceway winner Ryan Newman finished second.
“We were saving fuel the whole time," Newman said. "Made more sense to save fuel. We were two laps short. We just did what I thought we needed to do. If Carl made it, Carl made it.”
Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.
Championship points leader Denny Hamlin led a series high 190 laps before having to pit late for fuel, resulting in an 12th place finish.
“Knowing that we had a very, very good points lead with 15 or 20 to go, that quickly diminishes, it hurts,” Hamlin said. “It hurts when you have a car that can possibly win.
“So for me, I wasn’t aware that anyone was going to try to stretch it [on fuel] and make it. [Crew chief] Mike [Ford] didn’t make me aware that anyone was going to stretch it and make it so I went out there and ran as hard as I could. Unfortunately, our car didn’t have as good of fuel mileage as everyone else’s.”
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Meanwhile, Johnson stretched it the last 88 laps to come home fifth and bring the gap from first to second to just 15 points.
“I’m so happy to put pressure on the No. 11 team,” Johnson said.
“If it didn’t stay green, we would have been in trouble,” Crew Chief Chad Knaus admitted. “It was pretty simple. If the caution came out in the end, those guys would have been sitting there in the catbird seat once again because they would have had enough fuel.
“We probably would have pitted. They had fresher right-side tires. It definitely played in our favor along with a couple of others.
“It was pretty exciting. I’m not going to lie to you. It put us back in the game. Now we can go back to Homestead toe-to-toe and see what happens.
“You always want to be the guy that makes the three-point shot or the half-court shot at the buzzer to win the game or kick the winning field goal or whatever it is; this is the opportunity for either one of these teams. Whoever goes to Homestead and gets it done is going to win the championship.”
Meanwhile, Harvick had issues during the day, including hitting the wall and a loose lug nut on a lap 224 pit stop. Harvick used it to his advantage as he pitted under the lap 233 caution, while most of the leaders stayed out, to be able to make it to the end and finish sixth.
“I was pretty down and I thought, ‘There it went,’” Harvick said. “We dodged one, for sure.”
Harvick now sits third in points, 46 points behind Hamlin.
The race for the championship now comes down to the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday.
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