By AMANDA VINCENT
After suffering from sticky feet in the early stages of the Coca-Cola 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night because of Coke poured down on pit road to give teams traction in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, Carl Edwards recovered and gambled on fuel mileage late in the race to claim the win. It was his first win of the season, and therefore, his first with Joe Gibbs Racing. It also was the 300th victory for Toyota.
“That’s what made the race for us,” Edwards said of the call by crew chief Darian Grubb to stay out in the closing laps. “Darian does such a good job, and ever since Tony (Stewart) and I battled for that championship, I’ve wanted to work with him, and now I can. That’s what he does on the box; he takes a mediocre day like that, and he puts us in a good position.”
Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, like Edwards, pitted during the final yellow flag and stayed out when others pitted under green with about 20 laps to go. As a result, they finished second through fourth. For Kenseth, the top-five came after and unscheduled stop for a loose wheel on lap 321.
Biffle’s runner-up finish was his best of the season and was a positive for the struggling Roush Fenway Racing.
“I’m really excited for the team and the organization,” Biffle said. “We’ve been working really, really hard on our cars. It’s been well-documented how bad we’ve been running, so it feels good.”
Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch were among the drivers who stayed out during the final caution, the eighth of the race, and therefore, had to pit under green in the final laps. Truex, after leading a race-high 131 laps, was able to work his way back up into the top-five to finish fifth. Busch wound up 10th.
“I don’t know what to do about fuel mileage races,” Truex said. “I’ve never, ever, ever, ever, ever. One time in my whole career I came out on the right end of them, so I don’t know. I guess I don’t get good fuel mileage.”
Kenseth started on the pole and led 26 of the first 28 laps before Joey Logano took the lead position on lap 29. Edwards was credited with leading the first two laps of the race as he and Kenseth raced side-by-side for the top spot.
Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick each led lalps before Busch took the lead on lap 97. But Truex came out with the lead after a cycle of green-flag pit stops around lap 190. Busch retook the lead on lap 237, but Truex was back up front by lap 263.
Hamlin got off pit road first during a lap 330 caution, but he had to make an unscheduled stop with 38 laps to go because of a vibration. Luckly for Hamlin, everyone else who didn’t pit under the lap 337 caution also had to stop again before the end. He wound up finishing eighth.
Hamlin reported to the infield care center with a migraine headache after the race. He was diagnosed as being dehydrated.
Truex inherited the lead from Hamlin’s pit stop and led the way until his green-flag stop in the closing laps.
Ryan Newman finished the race sixth. Brad Keselowski overcame an early-race pit road penalty and then an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel to finish sevineth. Harvick was ninth.
Kyle Busch finished 11th after running in the top-three late in his first points-paying race and his first full-length race of the season.
“I feel pretty good,” Busch said after the race. “I’m a little surprised that I feel as good as I do, you know. I was expecting to be a little bit more beat up and tired, but honestly, I’m not.”
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