Edwards flips over the new Bristol

It's safe to say that Carl Edwards is a big fan of the "new" Bristol Motor Speedway. Edwards led 182 laps, including the final 128 to claim the checkered flag in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. It was the first Nextel Cup...

It's safe to say that Carl Edwards is a big fan of the "new" Bristol Motor Speedway.

Edwards led 182 laps, including the final 128 to claim the checkered flag in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. It was the first Nextel Cup race held on the circuit since undergoing dramatic changes to the racing surface over the past several months.

Edwards was thrilled to land his trademark victory back flip on the new surface.

"This is the biggest win of my career," said Edwards, who gave Ford its first win in the new Car of Tomorrow. "I can't thank (crew chief) Bob Osborne and all my guys enough. To win here at Bristol I think is every body's dream. I'm living the dream thanks to Jack Roush. It's unbelievable."

Edwards admitted that winning the night race at Bristol was high on his list of things to do.

"I was emotional to win this race," said Edwards, who clinched his spot in the Chase for the Championship. "I think every short track racer out there is dreaming of this. To win this race is cool. This is the race. I'm very grateful just to be here. No matter what else happens this year, I won the night race at Bristol."

Pole sitter Kasey Kahne led the first 36 laps before giving up the lead to Edwards in lapped traffic. Kahne grabbed the lead back 28 laps later and dominated the first half of the race.

Edwards finally wrestled the lead back from Kahne with 166 laps left in the race when Kahne was held up by the lapped car of Michael Waltrip. Edwards gave up the lead on lap 367 to make a green flag pit stop but regained the lead when the caution came out five laps later.

"To win this is huge," said Edwards, who also won at Michigan in June. "Bob Osborne just kept making adjustments. He's a very smart guy and I'm lucky to have him in my corner. We were dropping back at the start and he kept making adjustments and the car kept getting better and better."

Kahne finished second, his best finish of the season.

"It feels good," said Kahne, who capped a dramatic finish to win the Busch Series race on Friday. "I think it will feel a lot better tomorrow when I can think about it. You go into the season and think you're going to run well and when you don't -- a weekend like this feels good."

Kahne led a race-high 305 laps but said he just didn't have enough to catch Edwards in the closing laps.

"Those guys did a good job at the end," said Kahne, who finished 1.553 seconds behind Edwards. "The car felt good at the end, but he was getting through the centre a little better than us. It was a great weekend."

Clint Bowyer started 18th and picked up a season-best third place finish.

"I really though the top line was going to come in and be the preferred line," said Bowyer, who finished eighth in the Busch race on Friday. "I just didn't have enough at the end."

Tony Stewart led the most laps in the March race, but struggled to get the handle on his car throughout most of this race. He locked it in late in the race and rallied for a fourth place finish while Dale Earnhardt Jr. kept his Chase for the Championship hopes alive with a fifth place run.

"We had a good night tonight," said Earnhardt, who gained a few points on Kurt Busch, who finished sixth and currently holds the 12th and final spot in the Chase. "I am stoked about finishing fifth. I enjoyed myself tonight. I wanted a top five and that was nice to get. We ran the top some but at the end the bottom was where you needed to be."

Ryan Newman also had an outstanding day, running all but two of 500 laps in the top-10. He finished seventh while Kyle Busch, who won at Bristol in March in the first race in the new Car of Tomorrow, finished ninth.

Martin Truex Jr. came into the race in 11th place in the championship standings and also made a quick charge through the field. He started 25th and worked his way into the top-10 by lap 125 before a costly mistake on pit road. After pitting under the first caution of the race, Truex was forced back onto pit road because of loose lug nuts on a rear tire. The mistake dropped him back to 26th but he rebounded for an 11th place finish.

Jeff Burton ran his familiar black and orange paint scheme, but the AT&T logos that are usually on the hood and rear quarter panels were missing after his sponsor lost its court battle earlier this week to keep their logos on the car.

Ricky Rudd made his 58th start at Bristol. Rudd, who last week announced that this would be his final full season in the Nextel Cup Series, is two starts behind Richard Petty for the all-time lead at Bristol. Rudd was a lap down with less than 50 laps to go when he got knocked from behind by Martin Truex Jr. Rudd finished 38th.

Denny Hamlin had already locked his spot in the Chase for the Championship, but that didn't stop the sophomore driver to make a furious charge early in the race. Hamlin qualified 37th, but started at the back of the field after making an engine change. He jumped into the top-10 in the first 100 laps, but lost his motor just before the midway point of the race.

"We knew it was coming," said Hamlin, who told his crew that something was wrong 20 laps earlier. "I couldn't be prouder of this whole team. Our car was magnificent. These guys are going to have to contend with this team for the rest of the season."

Despite coming into the race with an uncertain future, J.J. Yeley enjoyed a fantastic day. Yeley, who will lose his Joe Gibbs Racing ride to Kyle Busch in 2008, started 40th, but quickly worked his way towards the front. He was approaching a top-10 spot by the midway point of the race and held on for a 13th place finish.

Points leader Jeff Gordon ran in the top five for most of the race but was the victim of some bad luck when the caution came out just after he made a green flag pit stop on lap 370. He got back on the lead lap after picking up the free pass on an ensuing caution. He finished 19th.

Matt Kenseth was looking for his third straight August win at Bristol. He started 12th and ran most of the race in the top-10 but started to drop back with less than 100 laps left to go. He tapped a spinning Robbie Gordon with 60 laps left to go and then got caught up in Ricky Rudd's wreck with 47 laps to go. Kenseth finished 39th.

"I saw it, I just couldn't get slowed down," said Kenseth, who clinched his spot in the Chase for the Championship. "We ran really terribly. We've got to back and look at that because I can't keep up at all."

Reconstruction of Bristol Motor Speedway started immediately after the March race finished. The entire concrete racing surface was redone with variable banking that opened up multiple racing grooves. In past races, Bristol was essentially a one groove track and drivers needed to hold the bottom line to pass.

"It's totally different," Jeff Gordon said before jumping into his Chevrolet. "It's different when you look at it. It's different when you drive it. It's more of a momentum track. All those notes, all those wins at Bristol -- you can throw them out the window now."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing