Click here to visit the Motorsports page for all the latest news and information.
BRISTOL — Carl Edwards gave Kyle Busch all he could handle during the final 50 laps of Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, passing Busch briefly on lap 474, before the losing the lead for good on the following lap, as Busch won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season.
Still, it was a huge day for the Blue Oval Boys. Edwards brought his No. 99 Scotts Ford Fusion second ahead of Jimmie Johnson, with Matt Kenseth earning his first top-five of the season with an excellent fourth-place run in the No. 17 Crown Royal Fusion. Paul Menard completed the top five, followed by Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and the No. 16 3M Ford of Greg Biffle, who the same as Kenseth had his best finish of the season.
That made three Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusions in the top eight, with Edwards now second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings, just a single point behind leader Kurt Busch. Kenseth picked up three spots in the points to advance to 13th, while Biffle climbed eight spots to 23rd. AJ Allmendinger (16th), Marcos Ambrose (18th) and David Ragan (20th) are also in the top 20 in points. Of the three, Ambrose had the best finish at Bristol, coming home in 15th place.
On the day, Edwards led 18 laps en route to his fifth finish of first or second in the last six races. During that time, he has also earned three pole positions.
Edwards struggled early in the race, but thanks to some judicious adjustments from crew chief Bob Osborne, moved steadily through the field. After falling back from the pole in the opening laps, Edwards was 10th at the one-quarter distance and fifth after 250 of the 500 laps.
At lap 350, Edwards was fourth, but after a caution flag period that ran from lap 429-435, he moved up from second. And for the rest of the race, he dogged Busch hard.
Between laps 429 and 463, there were four caution periods, and Edwards said he expected even more, which he hoped would allow him to catch Busch.
“At the time I thought our 99 car was going to be better after 10 or 15 laps,” said Edwards. “I wasn't too concerned with it. I thought we were going to get another caution or two. My gut told me there was going to be another caution. But you never know how those runs are going to go. You never know the adjustments guys make on the last pit stop. You just don't know.”
Edwards did manage to go around Busch on lap 474, but only for a single lap, as Busch led the final 26 circuits, winning by 0.946 seconds.
“It's Bristol racing,” said Busch of his clean, but fierce battle with Edwards. “It's tough racing. It's things that you do to try to get by another competitor. With the competition as close as it is here, especially two cars that fast at the end of the race running identical lap times, you have to do something to get by the guy. What are you going to do? You have to break his momentum or traction. Carl was doing his part to try to do that.”
So now it’s on to Southern California for next week’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, one of Ford Racing’s best tracks. Look for more Ford Fusions out front there.