NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Carl Edwards wins in surprise finish at Bristol

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 16, 2014 

— Is it surprising a rain-delayed, day-turned-to-night race at Bristol Motor Speedway had a surprise ending?

In an incredible turnaround from just a week ago, Sunday night’s Food City 500 became a Roush Racing rival of sorts with Carl Edwards collecting his first victory of the season and virtually ensuring his No. 99 Ford team will compete for this season’s Sprint Cup Series championship.

It first appeared Edwards would claim the win with an impressive run to close the race but instead, some – but not all – of the caution lights illuminated with two of 500 laps remaining.

The field slowed for the caution and while team members and race officials attempted to figure out the reason for the lights coming on, the track was covered with a heavy rain shower – the third rain delay of the day.

NASCAR quickly threw the checkered flag and called the race, with Edwards as the leader. It’s his first win of the season and first since last September at Richmond, Va.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished second, Aric Almirola was third, Tony Stewart was fourth and Marcos Ambrose was fifth.

The start of Sunday’s race was delayed by rain for more than 21/2 hours.

When it finally began, it took just a lap for Brad Keselowski to grab the lead from pole-winner Denny Hamlin.

Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano, made his way to the top spot on Lap 42 and remained out front when NASCAR displayed a competition caution on Lap 52.

After a round of pit stops, Jimmie Johnson took over the race lead and led the way on the restart on Lap 58.

Debris brought out a caution on Lap 61, and Johnson remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 65.

Debris on the backstretch brought out the third caution on Lap 67. Johnson continued to lead the way on the restart on Lap 76 followed by Logano and Hamlin.

Matt Kenseth moved into the lead on Lap 98 and remained out front until a caution was displayed on Lap 119 for rain.

Once again heavy rain brought the race to a halt, and NASCAR red-flagged the race for 3 hours and 18 minutes before returning to caution.

On the restart on Lap 137, Kenseth led the way followed by Jamie McMurray and Keselowski.

Contact between Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick brought out a caution on Lap 157, and just as cars were slowing, Timmy Hill slammed into the back of Kenseth’s car, doing what appeared to be considerable damage.

On the restart on Lap 167, Kurt Busch was the race leader followed by McMurray and Logano.

Another competition caution – planned by NASCAR because of the second rain delay – was displayed on Lap 188. Most lead-lap cars pitted for fuel and tires, but Clint Bowyer elected to remain on the track and took over the race lead on Lap 193.

After 200 laps, Kyle Busch had taken over the race lead followed by Kurt Busch and McMurray.

Kyle Busch remained the race leader when the race hit Lap 250 and became official.

After 300 laps, Kenseth had returned to the lead followed by Stenhouse and Edwards.

David Ragan wrecked on the frontstretch on Lap 333 to bring out the eighth caution of the race. On the restart on Lap 340, Kenseth continued to lead followed by Kasey Kahne and Edwards.

On Lap 395, Kyle Busch spun on the exit to Turn 4 and was nearly hit by several cars but escaped a serious accident. Most of the lead-lap cars pitted for fuel and tires, with Kevin Harvick taking over the race lead on the restart on Lap 404, followed by Edwards and Kenseth.

Martin Truex Jr. had a tire going down and slapped the wall exiting Turn 2 to bring out the 10th caution on Lap 422. Most of the lead-lap cars pitted for tires and fuel with four – Edwards, Almirola, Hamlin and Stenhouse – remaining on the race track.

On the restart on Lap 430, Edwards led the way followed by Almirola, Hamlin, Stenhouse and Kahne, who took only two new tires on the stop.

Harvick’s car began smoking on Lap 450 and on Lap 451 he hit the Turn 1 wall in an incident that also involved Keselowski and McMurray – the 11th caution of the race.

On the restart on Lap 462, Edwards led the way followed by Almirola, Stenhouse and Stewart.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: jim_utter

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