Roush-Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards proved he could still perform his trademark backflip after a 70-race winless drought ended Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Edwards drove the No. 99 Subway Ford Fusion to victory lane in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 after taking a walk among the fans at the starter’s stand.
Edwards led 122 laps in the 316-lap event, 1.024 seconds ahead of runner-up Jimmie Johnson and third-place Denny Hamlin, who came to the checkered flag door to door with Johnson winning by, as one commentator put it, “a Subway six-inch.” Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top five.
"To be in Victory Lane this early in the season, to have a car like we had today, it’s really great," said Edwards post-race on NASCAR.com. "This win was as good, or better, than any win I’ve ever had." Next week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway would have marked two years since Edwards’ last win.
“It's an honor to come to the track and be driving the Subway car and to have Subway as the primary sponsor of our car and the title sponsor of the race,” continued Edwards. “But there is pressure. Those guys are as competitive as anyone. I know you guys have been to the banquets and met a lot of the sponsors and talked to them, but all of my sponsors are that way. They want to win. They didn't sign up with Jack Roush and the 99 team to be on 70-race losing streaks. They signed up to win and win a lot. I wouldn't say it's more pressure because I put a lot of pressure on myself, but it is very nice to win this race for them. It's really, really great. After everything they do for me, it's very cool.”
Third-place Hamlin came from the back of the field after changing engines in the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry on Saturday. “We overachieved a ton today,” said Hamlin. “We really just had good pit strategy. The pit crew picked up spots here and there, and you end up on the right lane here or there on each restart and you find yourself in the top 10 and then in the top 5 at the end. A lot of it we got our car better and were at least able to somewhat run with the leaders. But I think we definitely have some work to do. I think we didn't run as good as I hoped, but we finished better than I imagined after about halfway through today's race.”
Johnson, who won last week’s Daytona 500, leads the points after his second-place run. "Very good start to the season," said Johnson. "Leading the points, up here running well on downforce tracks and superspeedway tracks ... life is good."
Danica Patrick had a rough start to the weekend, qualifying 40th in the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS. It got rougher when she blew the right front tire on Lap 186, sending her into the outside wall before careening into David Ragan’s No. 34 as she came down the track. "It was a little unexpected," said Patrick, who was evaluated and released from the infield care center. "I took a hard hit to the right, and then on the left. I'm fine. The cars and the tracks are so safe. As a driver that's a nice feeling. It doesn't change the fact that we aren't going to get any points really coming out of today, and it would have been nice."
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series get back on track next weekend, March 7th through 10th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Stay up-to-date with the week’s activities at www.nascar.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR.
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