KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Well, it worked in the video game.
Carl Edwards did everything he could Sunday, including purposely bouncing off the concrete wall at Kansas Speedway, but it wasn't quite enough to beat two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
"Where'd he come from?" Johnson asked after Edwards shot underneath him in Turn 3 of the final lap before banging the wall hard, giving Johnson enough room to drive back in front and hold on for a win that vaulted him into the series lead.
Edwards lost the lead to Johnson 47 laps from the end of the Camping World RV 400 on the final pit stops by the leaders. But Edwards said he knew what he was doing when he made his desperation move on the final trip around the 1.5-mile oval.
"I planned on hitting the wall, but I didn't plan on the wall slowing me down that much," Edwards said. "In video games, you can just run into the wall and run it wide open. That's what I did, but it didn't quite work out the same as the video game."
His car had the badly scraped right side to prove it, though he regained control and finished second.
Johnson appeared to have the race well in hand after regaining the lead on Lap 220 of 267, consistently running 10 to 15 car lengths ahead of Edwards until the last two laps when the runnerup closed in enough to make a run.
Edwards got the gap down to a few feet heading into Turn 3 on Lap 266, but Johnson pulled away again as they reached the finish line.
"To be honest, I was cruising down the backstretch (on the last lap), had a decent lead and I knew he would go to the bottom," Johnson said. "My concern was just making sure I was at his quarterpanel coming off of Turn 2. So I was thinking through what I needed to do and, next thing you know, that car goes flying by.
"I knew inside there was no damn way he was making the turn and just stayed on the brake and tried to get it redirected and turned down. Then I was so in awe of how far he drove it in, I watched him pound the wall and get back in the gas and thought, 'Man, he's serious about this win. I'd better get back in the gas myself.' "
Edwards, who went from a 10-point lead over Johnson to a 10-point deficit with seven races left in the Chase for the Championship, said, "I just really, really wanted to win this race. … But Jimmie's a smart racer."
Greg Biffle, who came into the third race of Chase with two straight victories, followed the leaders across the finish line to stay within 35 points of the lead.
The top three in points have formed a breakaway pack, as fourth-place Jeff Burton fell 121 points behind Johnson despite placing seventh in the race.
"When we got here, we weren't very good," Biffle said. "We were 36th right off the truck. So we had big-time improving to do and we did that. We worked really hard and got our car good."
It was a very long race for Edwards, who started 34th in the 43-car field after a poor qualifying effort on Friday.
On his first pit stop, Brian Vickers veered into his pit as Edwards was coming out of his and the two made contact. On Edwards' next pit stop, he got out cleanly but was hit in the side by Dave Blaney, who had ricocheted off of Burton.
That forced Edwards to make another stop to have sheet metal pulled away from the tire.
Edwards, a native of Columbia, Mo., who considers this his home track, was relentless as he drove through the field and took his first lead on Lap 176. He wound up leading 31 laps.
But Johnson, who started from the pole, led a race-high 124 laps as he turned in his fifth straight top-five finish, including three of his five season wins.
Chad Knaus, his crew chief, said being in the points lead this early isn't very meaningful this early in the Chase.
"Doesn't mean anything right now," he said. "All we have to do is win races and finish in the top five, and the rest of it will take care of itself."
Jeff Gordon, who had felt sick all weekend, finished fourth, followed by Matt Kenseth. Gordon felt so ill coming in, Hendrick Motorsports had Nationwide series driver Brad Keselowski ready to take his place.
With seven races to go. Only these drivers are eligible for the title in the Chase for the Championship.
Driver Pts. Back
J. Johnson 5,575—
Carl Edwards 5,565 10
Greg Biffle 5,545 30
Jeff Burton 5,454 121
Kevin Harvick 5,439 136
Jeff Gordon 5,432 143
Clint Bowyer 5,411 164
D. Earnhardt Jr. 5,385 190
Matt Kenseth 5,383 192
Denny Hamlin 5,332 243
Tony Stewart 5,320 255
Kyle Busch 5,264 311
Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official standings today
Amp Energy 500, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, 2 p.m. Sunday. TV: Ch. 28