In a race where six of the seven who led laps ended up with problems Edwards was able to lead the final 78 laps in route to his third Bristol victory. The call of the race came on lap 422 during the ninth caution when crew chief Jimmy Fennig elected to keep Edwards out while the leaders pitted. Edwards took the lead and never looked back. Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both has career best finishes coming home second and third respectively. Tony Stewart got a much need fourth place run, and Marcos Ambrose was fifth.
After a nearly two-hour rain delay prior to the start, polesitter Denny Hamlin led the field to the green just before 3:00 p.m.; two laps later Brad Keselowski went by for the lead, followed soon after by teammate Joey Logano.
By lap 20, Keselowski was lapping the field. On lap 33, thanks to that traffic, Logano had caught Keselowski and the two were fighting for the lead in heavy traffic. Jeff Gordon in third was closing. Soon the top five was back together and slicing through traffic single file. Matt Kenseth was fourth, Hamlin fifth. Logano was able to slip by for the lead on lap 42 as the leaders got into heavy traffic with a competition caution coming on lap 50. Gordon and Keselowski were soon battling for second. Just prior to that caution Kenseth had caught Logano and was trying to take the lead as the yellow came out.
Jimmie Johnson’s crew was the only one among the top runners to elect to take only two tires and he took the lead from the pits. He was able to stretch out his lead at the green; Gordon was forced back into the pits after making contact on pit road with David Ragan. The green didn’t last long as on lap sixty the second caution came out for debris in turn 2.
The restart came on lap 65 but lasted only a few laps before Parker Kligerman slid down and back across the track avoiding everyone else and bringing out the third caution. It turned out that the No. 23 of Alex Bowman lost a battery on the track and Kligerman struck it.
The green came out on lap 75 with Johnson leading. Logano was second and soon fighting with Kenseth for second; Kenseth was able to get by for the position and soon was heading towards the lead. On lap 98 Kenseth was able to get by and take over the top spot.
Logano began to report that the power steering in his Ford was gone and he began to drop back. On lap 114 Johnson suddenly fell back with a flat right front tire; he would come out 39th two laps down. Up front, Jamie McMurray took over second just as the caution for more rain came out on lap 117. The leaders came in for pit stops. Soon after NASCAR had the cars led down pit road and stopped as the rain fell harder.
After another delay of 3 hours, 18 minutes the cars left pit road to try and finish the race under the lights. When the race was put back under caution, Logano’s crew worked to repair his power steering; the problem was fixed and Logano reentered the field three laps down.
When the green flag fell the intensity from the drivers was evident as more nearby rain showers threatened.
Kenseth led to the line while Kurt Busch dove from third on the outside and took over second. After a few laps Kenseth and Busch had separated themselves from the field and contested the lead. McMurray in third had fallen into the clutches of Kevin Harvick. On lap 153 Busch was able to win a drag race down the front stretch and take the lead. The battle allowed second and third to catch up. A lap later Cole Whitt spun after making contact with Danica Patrick bringing out the fifth caution. When the caution came out, Timmy Hill kept up near full speed and slammed into the back of a slowing Kenseth. Kenseth made numerous pit stops under the caution.
Busch led the field to the green on lap 167, McMurray was second. Several laps later Busch had stretched out his lead to nearly a second. By lap 179 though McMurray was back to Busch and fighting for the lead. McMurray took the lead on lap 180. NASCAR threw a competition caution at lap 186.
The leaders came in for tires; all took four with the exception of Ryan Newman who took no tires and gained 18 spots to 4th . Kyle Busch took the lead off pit road over McMurray. Clint Bowyer who had stayed out however took the lead, he got a good jump on Kyle Busch on the restart but Busch was soon side-by-side and was able to pull ahead a few laps later. The top five fought for positions behind the lead duo. Kurt Busch was able to take over second by lap 201. Bowyer’s gamble fell short as he was soon falling back. Kenseth had rebounded from his earlier meeting with Timmy Hill, had made his way into 12th and was continuing to move forward.
By lap 229, Harvick broke up the brotherly duo and took second from Kurt Busch. A few laps later Harvick had caught Busch as traffic ahead held them up but could never get by for the lad and soon faded. Busch led at the halfway point, Kasey Kahne had moved to second and Kenseth recovered to third. By lap 267 Kahne and Busch battled for the lead in heavy traffic; Kenseth soon joined them. Three laps later Kahne had the lead. Busch dove in for a green flag pit stop on lap 273. The caution came out on lap 275 when Ryan Truex lost a tire and slammed the wall. Meanwhile Kyle Busch was reporting that he thought he had a tire going down and that’s why he had stopped under green. Despite the four tire change, Busch reported he was still experiencing some sort of issue. The leaders came in for stops; Kahne led off pit road, Kenseth was second, Rickey Stenhouse Jr. was third.
The green came out on lap 286 and Kenseth shot to the lead, Stenhouse took over second; Kyle Larson was fourth behind Kahne. Four laps later, Kahne had dropped back to fifth while Carl Edwards slid into third and Larson remained fourth. By lap 305, Stenhouse was starting to slide back as Edwards took over second. Kahne had moved back to third by lap 319. On lap 326, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been complaining of a vibration, came in under green for four tires.
The eighth caution came out on lap 332 when David Ragan crashed along the frontstretch after contact from Michael McDowell. The leaders came in for stops. During the caution, Earnhardt came in again and the hood came up.
Kenseth led, Kahne was second, Edwards third, Larson fourth when the green fell on lap 339. Kenseth stretched his lead out, as Larson shot to second. Three laps later, Almirola was in third, Edwards fourth. Up front Larson began chipping away at Kenseth’s lead. By la 364 the battle for third and fourth was begin contest between Almirola, Edwards, Harvick and Kahne.
Harvick began to move forward and on lap 387 was challenging Larson for second. By lap 393 Harvick took over second and Larson began to fade. Two laps later the ninth caution came out when Kyle Busch took a solo spin; he came to rest between the turns but his brother Kurt couldn’t get slowed down in time and tapped Kyle then hit the outside wall before continuing.
The field came in for stops; Harvick won the race off pit road, Edwards was second, Kenseth third, Larson fourth. The green came out with 96 to go. Kenseth began to fall back and three laps later hit the wall. He was able to continue and was soon back up to speed. On lap 422 Martin Truex Jr. lost a tire thanks to a fender rub and spun into the wall bringing out the ninth caution.
The leaders came in for stops. Edwards chose to stay out and took the lead. Almirola was second, Denny Hamlin was third, Stenhouse was fourth; all had stayed out. The restart came with 73 to go and Edwards was able to stretch out his lead over Almirola.
“That’s a gutsy call with all the tire trouble,” Edwards said. “Goodyear makes great tires. We didn’t have trouble at the end, but it was just a bad matchup with the track.”
Harvick was making ground but on lap 450 his Chevy began smoking and seconds later the engine let loose sending Harvick into the wall; behind him McMurray slowed and collected Keselowski who hit him in the rear. Keselowski had the crew tear off his damaged hood and went back out on the lead lap, McMurray went to the garage. Under the tenth caution, the top six leaders stayed out.
The green came out with 40 to go. Edwards led, Almirola was second, Stenhouse was third, Stewart fourth. Unlike past restarts, Edwards couldn’t pull away and Almirola tried to take first.
Three laps later though Edwards stretched his lead out, as Stenhouse and Almirola fought for second. With 27 to go, Edwards had a lead of just over a second. With 10 to go, the lead was over 2.5 seconds. A caution however came out with three laps to go and erased his lead. NASCAR never made it clear why the 11th caution came out but a sudden rain shower came out and two laps later Edwards cruised to victory under caution.
The win was the 22ndcareer victory for Edwards.
“It’s just an awesome night.” Edwards said. “We’re in the Chase and we’re gonna go win this championship. I just can’t believe we turned this thing around. We were terrible on Saturday, so I’m just glad we turned it around. Jimmy is the man.”
Earnhardt Jr. who finished a lap down in 24th and lost the points lead for the first time this season. Keselowski, who finished 15th on the lead lap took over the top spot in the standings, Edwards is now third, Jeff Gordon fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Auto Club Speedway near Los Angeles for next Sunday’s Auto Club 400.