Carl Edwards pulled off the win of his career at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. He chased down Jimmie Johnson in the last turn of the last lap to grab his first career Cup victory by a nose. "I don't even know," said a teary-eyed Edwards of...
Carl Edwards pulled off the win of his career at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. He chased down Jimmie Johnson in the last turn of the last lap to grab his first career Cup victory by a nose.
"I don't even know," said a teary-eyed Edwards of his weekend. "Let me tell you Jimmie Johnson is an amazing competitor. I have never driven that hard in my life. That's the hardest I have ever driven in my life. I am pretty proud of that."
The crowd and Edwards flipped for the result.
Edwards gained the elusive Atlanta double - scoring a win in both the Busch and Cup series races in one weekend. A feat never before accomplished by any other driver. He also becomes the first driver to ever win his first Busch and first Cup race in the same weekend.
"I can't believe we won two," said Edwards. "I am the luckiest guy in the world."
The break of the race for Edwards came at lap 295 when he beat the leaders out of the pits to gain the lead. At the time, he could not hold off the No. 48 of Johnson who quickly moved past him but Edwards managed to stick close to the rear of the Hendrick Chevy.
"My pit crew got us off pit road first on that last set of stops," he said. "If it wasn't for that there would have been no way we could have been up there to win."
When go-time came Edwards showed why he is one of NASCAR's rising stars. He hunted down Johnson on the closing laps, almost losing control of his ride several times. Finally, on the last circuit Edwards put all his cards on the table and powered past Johnson as they came through 3-4 toward the finish line.
Edwards came across the line in the lead by inches to write his first career win into the NASCAR annals.
"To be honest with you this is beyond my wildest dreams," Edwards said. "I am enjoying every minute of it."
Jimmie Johnson tried everything he could to keep Edwards at bay. But the bold move by the No. 99 threw off Johnson's momentum and relegated him to a second place result.
"I wanted to slingshot by at the start/finish and he still found a little spot there next to the wall and got a run around me," said Johnson who led a race high 149 laps. "Then the momentum carried him past me coming to the start/finish line.I was trying to break his momentum.
"But where I messed up was coming to the white flag. I should have just stuck to the bottom and stayed in my lane and everything would have been fine, I think. But I moved up, and tried to find something and missed it."
Greg Biffle led 146 laps but got caught back in third after the day's final service stops. Biffle never could regain his momentum to catch back up and play with the leaders. He finished third.
"We had one of the best race cars, us and the 48," said Biffle. "But Carl (Edwards) beat us out of the pits there at the end. We were just two tight behind those two race cars. These cars are so aero tight and it's so hard to pass. I just got stuck behind my teammate and the 48. I was better than them, but I was too aero tight. With the aero package you just can't pass."
Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne complete the top five.
"It was a good day," said Kahne. "We had to fight pretty hard at the end there. We always run pretty well here, so that's a good thing. We changed some things this week. Everybody at Evernham Motorsports worked real hard to change some things we had going on. The new Charger is a good car, we just have to figure it out, and it's going to take a little time. I think we learned a lot about it today."
Roush Racing Ford's were clearly the dominating cars of the day filling out three of the top five spots.
"I have never been more excited watching a race than I was today," said car owner Jack Roush. "I couldn't be more excited or proud of Carl (Edwards)."
Pole sitter Ryan Newman led the field to the green flag but a melee erupted in turn two on the first lap. Casey Mears was tapped by Scott Riggs turning the No. 41 Ganassi Dodge in front of the field mid-pack. When the smoke cleared Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Shane Hmiel and Matt Kenseth were all involved.
"There was some contact with the No. 41 and a couple of other guys," said Gordon who finished 39th. "You know, turned sideways and once that happened, just caused a big wreck. I thought I was going to get through there. I saw smoke but then they all turned down in front of me."
NASCAR red-flagged the event for clean-up and restarted them at lap five with Newman once again taking the green flag. Rocket-man Newman was not able to maintain the lead long, as Jimmie Johnson blew past for the lead a lap later.
Johnson maintained until the first round of green flag pit stops when Greg Biffle grabbed the lead of the event. On that round of stops, the No. 8 Chevy of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 88 Ford of Dale Jarrett were both nailed for speeding on pit road and had to serve pass through penalties.
Jarrett was also too fast when he came onto pit road to access his penalty and was given a second wrist slap - having to come in and make a second stop on pit road.
Johnson reigned supreme atop the field until lap 123 when Biffle was back out front after a caution period. Biffle led when trouble for his teammate slowed the field at lap 159.
Point leader Busch cut a tire shredding the wheel well of the No. 97 Ford. It was an altogether bad day for the championship Roush team who was also involved in the lap one crash. Troubles continued to mount when the team came to pit road to make repairs and they were too fast coming onto pit road.
In addition to their lengthy time on pit road to make repairs they were also given a pass through penalty. They finished 32nd and fall from first to fourth in rankings.
The front of the pack was controlled by the No. 16 Ford of Biffle on the restart at lap 169 but his lead didn't last long. Johnson and Biffle once again swapped the lead position, when the 48 passed the 16 at lap 171.
Biffle and Johnson continued to trade the top spot several more times dominating the field by each leading over 100 laps each about 95% of the race.
Johnson was leading at lap 295 when a caution flag brought the leaders onto pit road. After service, Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Roush Ford team grabbed the lead. The field restarted with 26 to go with Edwards being hotly pursued by Johnson.
Not even a lap elapsed before the 48 was able to distance himself by 4/10ths of a second over the grid. Johnson and Edwards hauled out to a huge lead over the rest of the pack as Johnson and Edwards battled to the final patch of race track as they crossed the finish line with Edwards taking the checkered flag by 0.028 of a second.
"There wasn't anything in the world that was gonna take my foot off that throttle pedal at that point," said Edwards. "Nothing. Whatever would have happened it would have happened."
Jimmie Johnson climbs back to the head of the 2005 Nextel class. Greg Biffle (-82), Carl Edwards (-87), Kurt Busch (-103), Mark Martin (-141), Ryan Newman (-165), Tony Stewart (-166), Elliott Sadler (-198), Rusty Wallace (-203) and Jamie McMurray (-205) complete the top five on the points chart.
There were 27 lead changes among seven drivers and eight cautions for 40 laps.