Carl Edwards took the checkered flag in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday and celebrated the end of a 70-race winless streak.
“We’re back,” Edwards declared in victory lane. “This is going to be good.”
The winless streak that was snapped tied another 70-race winless streak Edwards also ended at Phoenix in 2010.
As Edwards drove on to the win in a green-white-checker finish, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin battled side-by-side for the lead. It was a battle Johnson won by a nose.
“Just very proud of this whole Hendrick team,” Johnson said. “Great pit stops across the board.
The third-place finish gave Hamlin’s crew chief Darian Grubb his fourth top-five finish in as many races on PIR’s new configuration.
“I didn’t have much all day. Darian and the pit crew carried us,” Hamlin said. “We overachieved today, and that’s what you have to do when you don’t have a good car.”
Hamlin had to start the race from the back because of an engine change earlier in the weekend.
Brad Keselowski finished fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth.
Mark Martin started on the pole and led until he hit pit road during a caution on lap 50. Several drivers stayed out, included Juan Montoya and Greg Biffle. As a result, they restarted in the top-two spots.
Biffle got by Montoya to take the lead on lap 57. Meanwhile, Martin lost several positions when he headed down pit road again a few laps later because of a loose wheel.
Montoya retook the lead just before the yellow flag waved again on lap 65. He, along Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. stayed out again to restart the race in the top-three spots. Biffle, again, got by Montoya when the race went back to green.
Martin reassumed the lead when the fourth caution of the race came out on lap when he stayed out while everyone else pitted. Edwards got off pit road first to restart second, but Keselowski took the second spot from him right after the restart. Keselowski moved up one more spot on lap 127 when he took the lead from Martin.
Keselowski held on to the lead until the next caution on lap 141. Everyone made pit stops, but several drivers took only two tires to Keselowski’s four to beat him off pit road.
Edwards was back up front for the restart, while Johnson claimed second and Earnhardt third. All three maintained their positions until the next caution came out on lap 196. Earnhardt got off pit road first to take the lead and Edwards claimed second. But Johnson and the No. 20 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Matt Kenseth quickly got by Edwards for the second and third spots, moving Edwards back to fourth.
Edwards got back to the lead by getting off pit road first during the seventh caution of the race on lap 237. He kept the lead the rest of the way.
“Jimmy Fennig (Edward’s crew chief) is the man,” Edwards said. “This pit crew is unbelievable. They won this race for us today.”
Earnhardt restarted second, but lost the spot to Johnson soon after the restart. A few laps later, Keselowski also got by Earnhardt.
The eighth and final caution of the race came out with three laps to go, resulting in a green-white-checker finish. The extra laps made several teams question their fuel mileage, but all the frontrunners were able to get to the end under power. Edwards pulled away on last lap while Johnson and Hamlin battled for second-place.
“Very exciting finish there,” Johnson said. “To come across the line like that with Denny was exciting.”
Finishing sixth through 10th were Clint Bowyer, Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR