Carl Edwards had a reason to do his celebratory back flip Sunday. Edwards led a race high 276 laps and won the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The win was the 26th of his career and his fourth at Bristol. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at the World’s fastest half mile.
Edwards led the field to the green under clear blue skies with his second consecutive pole of the season, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth started second on the inside, Joey Logano was behind Kenseth in third, Denny Hamlin behind Edwards in fourth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car starting in 20th, wasn’t able to get to speed and he was forced to pit; he rejoined the field on lap 4. Edwards had the lead, Kenseth was second, Logano third followed by Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Earnhardt’s crew reported that there was an issue with the Electronic Control Module and he was soon up to speed but two laps down in 40th. By lap 20 Edwards was lapping the back of the field.
Logano took second from Kenseth on lap 30 and was challenging Edwards for the lead in heavy lapped traffic by lap 32; Logano got the lead on the outside on lap 38; Edwards retook the spot on lap 41 as Kenseth got by Logano to retake second. Kenseth was soon looking for the lead and got it on lap 44. Edwards and Logano were side by side for second. Edwards fell back and into fourth on lap 48. Logano in second was looking for the lead but on lap 52, Kyle Busch in third blew a right front tire and hit the wall bringing the day’s first caution.
The leaders all came in for stops on lap 54. Kenseth was out first, Edwards second followed by Logano, Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Green came out on lap 59. Keselowski was sent to the back with a speeding penalty and restarted 29th, moving Martin Truex Jr. up a spot. Jimmie Johnson was also among those who were penalized for speeding.
Hamlin was looking for the lead by lap 60. Behind, Truex got third from Logano.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun exiting turn 2 and caution two flew on lap 71. Several behind the leaders pitted, but the top runners stayed out.
The green came out on lap 78. Kenseth powered into the lead followed by Truex; Hamlin fell into third. AJ Allmendinger and Edwards were side by side for third behind. Kevin Harvick was fifth. Edwards was dropping back by lap 81 and finally rejoined the line in eighth; Harvick went to fourth on lap 88.
Edwards moved into fifth on lap 106 as Harvick had made it to third over Hamlin. Logano pitted with a vibration on lap 109. Logano had to make a pass through penalty with an uncontrolled tire.
Kyle Busch spun exiting turn 2 on lap 117 after contact with Chris Buescher and caution three came out. The leaders all came in for stops. Kenseth was out first, Paul Menard took only two tires and was out second, followed by Harvick, Edwards and Hamlin.
Green returned on lap 122. Kenseth took the lead from the outside as Edwards slid into second. Kyle Larson was third, Allmendinger fourth and Menard fifth. By lap 140, Harvick was fourth, Allmendinger fifth and Menard had fallen to sixth.
Caution 4 flew on lap 146 when Larson got into the wall on the back straightaway with rear end issues. Larson went directly to the garage. Menard was the only car among the top 10 to pit.
The green came out on lap 155; Kenseth went to the lead, as Allmendinger took second followed by Edwards, Truex and Harvick. Edwards went to second on lap 160. Truex went to fourth on lap 164. Kyle Busch had moved his way to 11th; he went to 10th on lap 168.
Harvick continued to work on Truex and got fourth back on lap 175. Chase Elliott pitted from seventh with a loose wheel on lap 181. Larson came back out, 37 laps down.
Kenseth and Edwards were fighting for the lead when on lap 187 Kenseth lost a tire and caution five came out. Like Kyle Busch, Kenseth sustained little damage. The leaders all came in for stops. Menard again took only two tires and was out first; those behind took four. Edwards was out second, followed by Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch. Busch however was penalized for speeding and sent to the rear of the field; Hamlin had contact with another car and sustained front-end damage. Allmendinger moved to fifth on the restart on lap 193. Edwards with four tires took the lead over Menard. Menard, Truex and Harvick fought for the spots and by lap 198, Harvick was second. Truex third, Menard fourth; Ryan Blaney moved to fifth. Earnhardt Jr. had worked his way to 11th.
Blaney went to fourth on lap 205, Kurt Busch went to fifth on lap 207 bringing Johnson with him. Earnhardt was 10th by lap 217.
David Ragan lost an engine on lap 219 and caution six flew. The top 17 all stayed out and the green came out on lap 227. Edwards grabbed the lead as Blaney got second, Harvick third, Johnson fourth Truex fifth.
Harvick went to second on lap 239. Allmendinger reported a vibration and pitted under green on lap 246; up front Johnson had fought his as to third, Truex was fourth, Kurt Busch fifth.
Kyle Busch suffered more issues entering turn 1 and hit the wall much harder and caution seven came out on lap 260. Busch had enough damage and his day was over. The leaders all came in for stops. Edwards was out first, Johnson second, Harvick third followed by Truex and Kasey Kahne.
Thanks to staying out four drivers led by Landon Cassill led the field. Behind Cassill, Ty Dillon was second, Greg Biffle third, Danica Patrick fourth and former leader Edwards fifth when the green came back out on lap 274. Edwards was third by lap 275, second by lap 276 and back to the lead on lap 283 after Cassill held him off for several laps; Harvick was up to third, Johnson went to fourth a lap later over Dillon.
Johnson reported a loose wheel and pitted under green on lap 300. After the pit stop under caution, the crew reported only three lug nuts on the left rear. Johnson went back out 31st, two laps down. Kenseth had overcome his earlier problems and was third by lap 315.
In heavy lapped traffic Harvick caught the leader and on lap 319 Harvick got the lead, Kurt Busch was fourth, Cassill was hanging on to fifth. Kenseth again lost a tire and hit the fence again on lap 323; this time there was no caution and Kenseth went behind the wall. Up front Edwards and Harvick were still contesting the lead.
Caution 8 came out on lap 330 for debris after Josh Wise hit the wall hard. The leaders all came in for stops. Edwards was out first, Harvick second, Kurt Busch third, Keselowski fourth and Cassill fifth.
Green came out on lap 337. Edwards cleared Harvick who slipped into second; Keselowski was third. Casey Mears spun after contact with Allmendinger exiting turn 4 and caution 9 came out on lap 339.
The green came out on lap 344; Edwards had the lead, Kurt Busch was second, but had a rear tire rub; Harvick was third, Keselowski was fourth, Kahne fifth. Brian Scott spun entering turn four on lap 350 and the tenth caution came out. The green came out on lap 356; Kurt Busch was able to charge under Edwards and grabbed the lead; Keselowski slid into third, Harvick was fourth, Kahne was fifth. Harvick went to third on lap 363.
Edwards caught Kurt Busch on lap 376 and was looking to regain the top spot. After going two laps down Chase Elliott was back to 10th by lap 280. Johnson and Allmendinger were staging a furious battle to be the first car a lap down in 25th and 26th.
Keselowski pitted under green with a flat tire on lap 387. In heavy lapped traffic Edwards was able to retake the lead on lap 397. Harvick was able to get by Kurt Busch for second on lap 403. Hamlin hit the turn 2 wall on lap 410 while running 15th and caution 11 came out. The leaders came in for stops. Edwards was out first, Harvick was second, Busch third followed by Truex and Logano. Green came out on lap 416. Edwards took the lead as Truex took second, Harvick third. Busch in fourth still had smoke from a tire rub. Kahne went into fifth, but was soon passed by Elliott. Truex reported a loose wheel on lap 425, Harvick went by for second, and soon Truex was falling back, slowing and pitted on lap 427. Elliott moved into third.
Aric Almirola made contact with Truex who had just pitted entering turn 3 on lap 436 and caution 12 came out. The top 10 stayed out as several from 11th back pitted.
The green came out on lap 448; Edwards went to the lead, Harvick took over second, Busch went to third, Elliott was close behind, Logano was fifth.
On lap 451, Ty Dillon and Cassill got together shortly after Earnhardt and Dillon made contact and Dillon spun making hard contact with the wall; they were all fighting for 15th spot and caution 13 came out. Green came out on lap 266; Edwards went to the lead as Elliott shot to second, Harvick took third, Kurt Busch was fourth, Blaney fifth. On the restart Logano didn’t get going and held up the field, dropping back; he reported a loss of power that soon returned; Logano was in 17th.
Truex scrapped the wall hard in turn 2 on lap 480 but was able to continue and there was no caution. Michael Annett spun after contact with Harvick who had tapped the wall and bounced down and into Annett on lap 385 and caution 14 came out. The leaders all stayed out.
The restart came on lap 390. Edwards got the lead, Kurt Busch took second, but Regan Smith spun behind and caution 15 immediately flew.
The restart came with five laps to go. Edwards went to the lead, Earnhardt restarted third and went to second behind Edwards, Busch was third. Busch and Earnhardt fought for position but Busch got loose and Earnhardt was able to get clear. Thanks to the battle behind, Edwards was able to keep his lead and power to victory. Kurt Busch held on for third, Elliott was fourth and Trevor Bayne fifth.
Matt DiBenedetto was emotional as he celebrated his career best sixth place finish. Harvick was seventh; Clint Bowyer also reveled in his best finish of the season an eighth. Ryan Newman and Logano rounded out the top 10. The full results can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Richmond International Raceway in Virginia next Sunday. The Toyota Owners 400 gets the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. with live coverage on Fox.