Michigan crowds are starting to get used to watching Carl Edwards do back flips. Edwards led a race-high 84 laps and held off a late charge by points leader Kyle Busch to take the checkered flag at Michigan International Speedway ...
Michigan crowds are starting to get used to watching Carl Edwards do back flips.
Edwards led a race-high 84 laps and held off a late charge by points leader Kyle Busch to take the checkered flag at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.
Edwards, who also won here last June, swept the weekend after winning the Nationwide Series race here yesterday.
"This is an unbelievable feeling," said Edwards, who celebrated his 29th birthday here on Friday. "We're winning races and we're gearing up for the Chase. I'm feeling stronger than ever."
Edwards started 27th but worked his way through the field during the first half of the race and took the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the first time on lap 74. He had the best car for most of the day but needed to survive a couple of late-race restarts to hold on to win the 3M Performance 400.
"(Crew chief Bob Osborne and all the guys have been working really hard," said Edwards, who made his Sprint Cup debut here in 2004. "The calls that Bob makes are right - they are perfect. He called two tires and my guys came through."
Edwards took two tires and won the race off pit road during a late-race caution and then got around teammate David Ragan with 18 laps to go. He held off Busch for the closing laps for his fifth win of the season.
"Kyle is very good at restarts and I knew he was going to hang back and get a run on my bumper," Edwards said. "My guys did an unbelievable job getting me out of pit road."
It was Edwards' second win in the past three races and solidified his second place spot in the championship standings with three races left before the cut-off for the Chase for the Championship.
Busch leads the series with eight wins.
"We're doing some practice sessions for the Chase and trying to catch that 18 car," said Osborne.
Busch started 11th and wrestled the lead away from Edwards on lap 142 but he couldn't get past Edwards again with the laps winding down.
"He was able to take off on those restarts and get a heck of a run through one and two," said Busch, who finished 13th here in June. "Once he got that gap it was over. I've got to hand it to (crew chief) Steve Addington and all these guys on this Interstate Batteries Camry. We came here in the spring and weren't that great. We got it a lot better this time around - at least we were competitive. We were up there and leading. We'll take that."
Busch led 34 laps and officially locked up his spot in the Chase for the Championship.
"It's great to be locked in and have everything go our way so far this year," Busch said. "We've got three more races before the Chase starts and then 10 more to keep it up throughout the Chase. There is a lot of room there that anything can happen."
It was a successful day for the entire Roush-Fenway stable. David Ragan grabbed a career-best third place finish while Greg Biffle finished fourth and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five. Jamie McMurray finished 10th.
Ragan started 16th and led three laps before bringing home his fourth top-10 finish in the past six events.
"I was hoping to not catch a caution that last few runs," said Ragan, who stayed out for track position when the caution came out with 13 laps to go. "It worked out the best. If we had to do it all over again we might take two just to see what happened. Our AAA Ford had some good speed today. I feel that we had equal a car to the 18 but it just didn't work out. Nevertheless it was a pretty strong and exciting day for us in Michigan."
Ragan is just 26 points behind Denny Hamlin for the final spot in the Chase.
"We still have three more races," said Ragan, who is looking for his first spot in the Chase for the Championship. "We have to keep getting top fives and getting top 10s. We know what on the table. It's not going to be easy but it will be exciting so stay tuned."
Biffle started ninth and was with the leaders for most of the day. He just didn't quite have enough to contend for the lead.
"It was a great for the 3M Ford Fusion car," said Biffle, who moved up three spots to seventh in the standings. "The guys did a great job in the pits. I wish we had a different strategy and stayed out on those tires. We were curious about how that would have worked out for us. I'm still happy with fourth."
Kenseth struggled with a loose race car most of the day but made a charge in the closing laps to wind up with a solid fifth place finish. That helped him jump from 12th to 10th in the championship standings.
"We really struggled all day," Kenseth admitted. "We ended up with a good finish but the crew guys and Chip calling the race and making good adjustments is what got us that finish. We really didn't run good at all."
It was his first top 10 finish in the past four races after a string of eight top-10's in nine races.
"I'm just concentrating on trying to run better," Kenseth said. "Right now we're not running well enough to win the championship anyway so we're concentrating on making our cars better and running better."
Mark Martin, who is the only other driver to sweep a Nationwide/Sprint Cup weekend here, finished sixth while pole sitter Brian Vickers finished seventh. Kevin Harvick, Elliott Sadler and McMurray rounded out the top 10.
The Hendrick Motorsports' squad struggled today. Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson started on the front row and led the first seven laps before yielding the lead to Dale Earnhardt Jr. But Johnson and Jeff Gordon got together near the midway point of the race and that eliminated both drivers from contending for the win.
Johnson went to the pits right after the incident and dropped off the lead lap while Gordon brought out the caution 10 laps later when he cut his front right tire coming through Turn 2 and banged into the outside wall.
"Ultimately, we're responsible because our pit stops were terrible today," said Gordon, who finished 42nd and took a significant hit in the point standings dropping from sixth to ninth. "We finally get an awesome race car but we just didn't have the total package today. It's very disappointing. It's kind of the way our season has gone."
Earnhardt Jr. was among the race contenders for most of the day but got loose and banged the wall in the closing laps. He had to settle for a 23rd place finish after winning here in June.
Ryan Newman, who announced on Friday that he would be joining Stewart-Haas Racing next season, started 20th today and finished 21st.
Hamlin brought out the caution with six laps to go when his engine blew up. Hamlin finished 39th and dropped to 12th in the standings.
"We came here with a new engine package," Hamlin said. "We're a bubble driver and we've made stupid choices. At this point we don't even deserve to be in the Chase."