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Edwards ends NASCAR Cup skid at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Carl Edwards climbed from his car, stood on the door and landed a backflip near the finish line. He then hopped on the wall in front of the grandstand, grabbed the checkered flag and waded into the crowd, trading high-fives with fans.

After a miserable week at Daytona, Edwards had plenty to celebrate. That it came at Phoenix International Raceway seemed fitting.

Coming through on his promise to dominate after his Daytona debacle, Edwards pulled away on a late restart and ended a 70-race winless streak Sunday, the second lengthy drought he has ended at Phoenix.

"This win feels as good or better as any win I've ever had," he said.

Edwards missed the Chase in 2012, and his spiral continued at Daytona, where he wrecked five cars. On his way out of Florida, he declared he was ready to win.

He did just that, leading the final 78 laps on the 312-lap race around the odd-shaped oval in the first nonrestrictor-plate race with NASCAR's new Gen-6 car.

Edwards got a push from defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski on the restart with two laps left and pulled away, winning for the first time since Las Vegas in 2011.

After parking at the finish line, Edwards landed his first backflip in nearly two years and celebrated with the fans, just like he did at PIR after ending another 70-race winless streak in 2010.

The big duel came right behind Edwards for second place. Denny Hamlin made a last-lap pass on the apron below the dogleg. He popped up alongside Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, who edged Hamlin by inches.

"As far down as I was, I was committed, there was nothing that I was going to do where I would back out," Hamlin said. "I just hoped I would have just slid in front of the 48, then you risk getting punted and spun, and your whole day you've worked everything for is taken away in a corner. I held my line and thought I really did the right thing and gave those guys room to pass me back, and one of them did."

Mark Martin, at 54, the second-oldest driver to start a Cup race from the pole, failed in his bid to become the oldest Cup winner. He led the first 49 laps and 26 more later, but he couldn't sustain it and finished 21st.

Danica Patrick had a rough followup to her breakthrough week at Daytona, where she became the first woman to win a Cup pole and lead green-flag laps in the NASCAR season opener.

But her day at Phoenix ended with one of the hardest hits of her career. With about 100 laps left, the right-front tire on her No. 10 Chevrolet went down and slammed her into the wall.

"Whenever those right-fronts go, they always hit hard because you don't broadside, you hit more straight on," said Patrick, who finished 39th. "It took a hard hit both sides and I'm fine."

. fast facts

Sprint Cup points

After two of 36 races. The top 10 in points, plus two wild cards from places 11-20, after 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts Back

Jimmie Johnson 90—

D. Earnhardt Jr. 82 8

Brad Keselowski 82 8

Denny Hamlin 72 18

Clint Bowyer 72 18

Greg Biffle 66 24

Mark Martin 65 25

Jeff Gordon 60 30

Ricky Stenhouse 60 30

Aric Almirola 60 30

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today.

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 105.187 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 15 seconds

Margin of victory: 1.024 seconds

Caution flags: 8 for 43 laps

Lead changes: 12 among nine drivers

Lap leaders: M.Martin 1-49; J.Montoya 50-56; G.Biffle 57-64; Montoya 65-69; Biffle 70-100; Martin 101-126; B.Keselowski 127-142; D.Ragan 143-145; C.Edwards 146-189; J.Johnson 190; D.Reutimann 191; D.Earnhardt Jr. 192-238; Edwards 239-316

Edwards ends NASCAR Cup skid at Phoenix 03/03/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 3, 2013 11:49pm]

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