Saturday, June 23, 2018
Sports

Carl Edwards dominates late at Bristol for Sprint Cup win

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Carl Edwards took his first celebratory backflip of the season and easily stuck the landing.

"I considered not doing it," he said. "I haven't done one for a while."

He earned that acrobatic moment because his No. 19 Toyota gripped Bristol Motor Speedway much better than his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates on Sunday.

Edwards avoided tire issues that plagued his teammates and took off on the final restart to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on the 0.533-mile bullring. In fact, he made it look easy.

Starting on the pole for the second straight week, Edwards' Camry led eight times for 276 of 500 laps in the Food City 500 en route to his first victory since September at Darlington. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, followed by Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Trevor Bayne.

"We didn't have any trouble, and that's just a testament to everyone at the shop and whole team," said Edwards, who trails new points leader Kevin Harvick (seventh) by a point.

"It's really awesome to have a win so we can really have fun and focus on the championship."

Edwards' flawless day contrasted the right-front tire problems endured by teammates Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin after all of them started in the top five.

Busch, the defending series champion and points leader coming in, had trouble throughout and finally exited after his car smacked the wall on Lap 259, sustaining heavy damage.

"I just kept getting tighter in the long run, not sure why that was," said Busch, who had two other tire failures and was penalized for speeding off pit road.

Kenseth led three times for 142 laps but his day ended early after he cut a right front tire a second time and hit the wall; he was 36th. Hamlin had problems too, enough to cause Goodyear to announce it would examine all of those tires from Busch and Kenseth to determine if the tire makeup, or the aggressive setups used at the high-banked track, caused the failures.

"Because all of them had the same problem, we wanted to take a look," Goodyear racing director Greg Stucker said.

Earnhardt overcame a dead battery that stalled his No. 88 Chevy at the start and initially left him two laps down. He battled back to get on the lead lap by Lap 200 and dueled Kurt Busch for second in the final laps.

None of it ultimately mattered with Edwards out front.

"We didn't have a good enough car to run in the top five today, but (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and those guys did a great job getting our laps back," Earnhardt said.

Edwards stayed above the fray and was strong on long and short runs in his 26th Cup victory. That was evident on two restarts in the final 10 laps, when he wasn't challenged.

"I'm sure it looked better than it felt for me," Edwards said. "You can't be far enough ahead of these guys."

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