BRISTOL — Carl Edwards was glad to see the view out of his rearview mirror on Sunday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Edwards jumped out quickly on a lap 460 restart as he saw fellow Ford drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola battle side-by-side behind him. It allowed Edwards to pull out to a big lead and cruise to victory in the Food City 500.
It was Edwards’ third win at Bristol and his first in the spring race. All three of them have come at night, including Sunday’s race after it was delayed two hours at the start and red-flagged again for rain another three hours and 19 minutes on lap 124.
Edwards credited the victory to crew chief Jimmy Fenning’s decision to keep his No. 99 Ford on the track instead of going in the pits for new tires.
“I don’t know. Aric and those guys were really fast,” said Edwards when asked if he could have come through the traffic. “I don’t know if I could have gotten by them. But, that was a gutsy call with all the tire trouble.”
In the end, the rain may have saved Edwards’ 22nd career victory.
A mysterious caution blamed on a track-light malfunction came out with three laps to go, setting up a potential green-white-checkered finish. However, it never materialized as a quick rain shower soaked the track and put an end to the race.
It was a relief to car owner Jack Roush, who envisioned a worst-case scenario.
“I had a picture in my mind of those Fords ending up in a hairball and letting one of those Chevrolets or Toyotas slip on by,” Roush said. “That might have just been an old man being paranoid.”
As it was, Fords swept the top three positions.
Stenhouse, a teammate of Edwards, scored a career-best, second-place finish. He added it was a refreshing change after only one top-five finish, a third at Talladega, in his rookie season.
“We felt good about our car all weekend,” Stenhouse said. “This was a track we ran well in (the) Nationwide (Series). It feels good to be running up front again. We were able to come home with our first top-five of the year and hopefully, we will keep them coming.”
Almirola, driving the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, finished third, also a career-best finish. He battled door-to-door with Edwards before the final restart and saw it was a missed opportunity to win his first race.
“I saw it there on my fingertips that one restart when I raced side-by-side with Carl, but he had a better car tonight,” Almirola said. “I’m disappointed even though I finished third. When you’re that close, you can feel it, you can taste it.”
Tony Stewart, who struggled mightly the first three races of the year after coming back from a broken leg in a sprint car accident, broke up the Ford parade by finishing fourth in his Chevrolet.
“It’s not a win, I know that, but it feels like a win,” Stewart said.
Marcos Ambrose, Almirola’s teammate, finished fifth in a Ford.
Pole sitter Denny Hamlin was sixth in a Toyota, followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon in Chevrolets. Brian Vickers was ninth in a Toyota as rookie Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10 in a Chevrolet.
There was a change atop the Sprint Cup Series point standings.
Brad Keselowski holds a 10-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 24th on Sunday. Edwards and Gordon are tied for third, one point behind Earnhardt.comments powered by Disqus