Carl Edwards would break a 70-race losing streak at Phoenix International Raceway by winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in the No. 99 Subway Ford Fusion. The victory comes after wrecking five cars during the course of January Daytona testing and February Speedweeks.
“I don’t even know where to start," Edwards said. "Got to thank all of these Roush Fenway Racing guys, Jimmy Fennig, Jack Roush. This pit crew won that race for us. This is huge. It’s a Subway race and we won it and we’re back."
This isn't the first time that Edwards has gone 70 races without a win, having that same streak through the course of 2009/2010. He broke that streak in November 2010 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"I talked to a couple people about that this week and I told Randy after I did the appearance with Subway that I am starting to get mad," Edwards added. "I can’t say enough about everybody believing in me. This is just awesome.”
This is his second victory and 11th top-10 finish in 18 races at Phoenix International Raceway.
Edwards was able to grab the lead after the final round of pit stops with 76 laps to go, leading Dale Earnhardt Jr. off pit road.
A caution would come out with three laps to go, after Ken Schrader blew a right front tire. Edwards would hold off Jimmie Johnson on the late race restart. In terms of that final restart, Johnson thought Edwards broke restart protocol with how he restarted.
"The leader isn’t supposed to slow down before the restart, and he did that twice," Johnson stated after the race. "It put me in a bad position. It put the 2 (Brad Keselowski) inside of me. You at least want a fair shot. NASCAR gives you an area to play with it, and he was doing that before then. It his choice in how he plays the game. I know he hasn’t won in a while so I don’t want to rain on his parade. But I know if I did it, I would have a twitter inbox full of complaints.”
Edwards, however, thought Johnson sped up before the restart.
"I thought he was playing some sort of trick, speeding up a bit," Edwards said. "Usually you lay back and watch. But maybe I was slowing down cause he was speeding up. I thought it was genius with what he was doing."
With Edwards escaping on the restart, Johnson was left to battle for second with Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. Johnson was side-by-side with Keselowski through turns one and two, and down the backstretch. At that time, Hamlin, who was running fourth, made the dive bomb move down the backstretch, cutting part of the dog leg, to make it three-wide heading into three. That turned into Johnson and Hamlin side-by-side and they banged fenders all the way to the line, with Johnson grabbing second inches ahead of Hamlin.
It marks the 16th top 10 finish for Johnson at Phoenix in 20 starts.
"We got better as the day went on," the Daytona 500 winner said. "It got a little crazy today, especially that last lap. Great qualifying effort, great speed in the race & great pit stops."
With the third place finish, Hamlin would score his ninth top 10 in 16 starts at Phoenix. Hamlin had to start in the rear of the field after changing a motor following the first practice on Saturday.
“Going for anything I could," Hamlin said. "I didn’t have anything all day. Darian (Grubb) and the crew worked hard getting us up there. it’s just so hard to pass. We got a lot of work to do to make these cars pass.”
Hamlin went on to add that the left side tires need to wear off as they could've ran on them all day.
2012 Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski would end up fourth on the day.
“We ran out crossing the start finish line," he said. "Solid day. Guess we came up short. Gave him a shot there at the end. Thought I could use the momentum to get by the 48 and raced him pretty hard, and then raced with Hamlin.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who led 49 laps, would finish fifth for his second straight top five.
“We used strategy on pit road to get up front," he said. "We were able to show that we had a good car. Was side-by-side with the 99 (Edwards) on pit road, but had to lift cause the 13 (Casey Mears) wanted to get on pit road. Knew that we gave up a chance to get the win. We had a car that we could drive up and make some passes. Got to thank Steve for all of his hard work. We haven’t been good here. A little disappointed that we didn’t get to victory lane.”
Clint Bowyer finished sixth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton.
In total, there were eight cautions through the course of the 312 lap race.
The first caution came out on lap 21 for Scott Riggs blowing a tire and hitting the wall.
The second caution came out on lap 48 for Kyle Busch spinning while racing for 15th. He had made his way up through the field after starting in the back due to an engine change. He would finish 23rd.
The third caution came out on lap 64 as a result of Dave Blaney hitting the wall virtue of contact from David Stremme.
Ryan Newman would blow a tire and hit the wall on lap 98 for the fourth caution. Goodyear would report the tire went flat due to a melted bead as a result of excessive tire heat. Newman would get into the wall a second time on lap 141 with another tire down, this time done for the rest of the race due to damage. He would finish 40th.
His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and Daytona 500 pole sitter Danica Patrick would finish right ahead of him in 39th after bringing out the sixth caution. She hit the wall and destroyed her car after blowing a tire on lap 184. She would knock the right side of the car off the wall, before David Regan made hard contact with the left side of her car.
“Whenever those right fronts go, they always hit hard," she said. "They’re more broad cause you hit right on. They’re always big when you get hit on both sides. But NASCAR does a lot of work on safety. No big warning. Car wasn’t all that tight, was mainly chasing the rear and there was no vibration. It just sucks to lose the points. Everybody works hard and we wanted to establish those points so that way we could come out well. We were having a steady day. Not great, but we were making progress.”
The seven caution came out for David Gilliland having a flat tire with 76 laps to go, and then Schrader brought out the last caution with three laps to go as previously mentioned.
As a result of his second place finish, Johnson holds the points lead, eight points ahead of Earnhardt Jr. and Keselowski.