It was another thrilling finish for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Sunday. Carl Edwards scored back-to-back wins with a bump-and-run at Richmond International Raceway in the final corner of the last lap and raced to victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Toyota Owners 400. The win and the bump came at the expense of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.
Edwards had been the class of the field much of the day leading a race high 151 of the 400 laps. He found himself in fourth however on a restart after the races seventh caution. He fought his way to second and was catching leader Kyle Busch when the races final caution came out on lap 359. Busch was out first after the leaders pitted with Edwards in second. The green came out with 36 laps to go and Busch soon had a lead of 1.5 seconds. Edwards began chipping away at the lead with 20 laps to go however and with 10 laps to go, Busch and Edwards were dueling the for the lead. Busch held the lead until the final lap. Edwards first tried to pass him low entering turn 1 but dropped behind. As the two entered turn 3, Edwards was able to get to the back bumper of Busch and bump him sending the Busch Toyota up the track as Edwards charged underneath and on to victory.
“Kyle’s (Busch) an amazing teammate,” Edwards said. “It’s like he got really slow there at the end. Something happened that last lap. It was like his rear tires went off or something. He went down into (turn) one and I dove it in and I got to him and I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got something.’ And he went to get down to the bottom and park it in three and four and I had already decided to go down there so I thought, ‘Man, I’m going to give him a little nudge,’ and we both have got wins and we’re racing for fun getting these trophies and just an awesome day.”
The win was the 27th of Edwards’ career and came one week after his win at Bristol marking the sixth time in his career that Edwards has scored back-to-back wins. Sunday’s finish also marked the first time in modern NASCAR history that a Sprint Cup race was decided by a last lap pass at Richmond.
Busch held on for second, Jimmie Johnson was third followed by Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick who led the second most laps on the day,63, after starting from the pole was fifth. The finish for Busch marks the fifth time in his career that he has lost a race on the final lap.
“We probably weren’t the best car on the long runs today” Busch said. “But Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some phenomenal adjustments in order to keep us continually getting better as the day progressed there. The pit crew did a great job and got us in position and just kind of gave it up a little bit there on the last lap, but I guess that’s racing.”
The race was the first scheduled day race for Richmond since 1996. Fans in attendance were not disappointed as the racing on the track was some of the best in recent history at the .75 mile oval and featured packs three and four wide at times, under perfectly blue skies.
Tony Stewart in his first race back after a preseason injury had an adventurous day. He started 18th, ran as high as 14th at one point, spun after a flat tire, lost a lap but rallied to make his lap up and came home 19th. Despite his issues and his finish, Stewart was smiling at the end of the day, especially after being a part of racing that featured several lanes all over the track.
“That is Richmond,” Stewart said. “That is part of racing at your favorite racetrack and running a day race here where it gets slippery and you have to use all of the track. That is what made it fun and that’s what I miss, that is the stuff I dearly miss with this series is having days like today where you get on track and you are sliding around and the drivers get to make the difference.”
Stewart’s fellow Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kurt Busch, the defending race winner, led a total of 55 laps and fought off his younger brother Kyle for a time. He was leading in the closing stages of the race, but on the final restart an issue with his car caused him to fall back and he finished a disappointing 10th.
In front of Busch, Denny Hamlin rallied from an uncontrolled wheel penalty in the pits to finish sixth, Matt Kenseth was seventh followed by Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. in ninth. The full field rundown can be found here.
After the race Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran as high as fifth but faded to 13th at the end was smiling .He summed up the last lap pass and the day overall.
“It was awesome,” Earnhardt said. “I know Kyle (Busch) was probably disappointed, but it’s short track racing man. The fans come to see something like that. If you can reach them, if you can get to them on the last lap you better be leaning on them a little bit. He didn’t wreck him; as long as you don’t put a guy in the fence. I think the fans really enjoy it and that has always been good for the sport for 50 years. Hopefully, we have more exciting races come up in the next several weeks.”
Richmond marks the end of NASCAR’s short tracks for a while. The series now heads to its biggest track Talladega Superspeedway for next Sunday’s GEICO 500. Live coverage will be on Fox at 1:00 p.m. ET.