Carl Edwards wins his first Coca-Cola 600
Carl Edwards rolled the dice and came up a winner as he stretched out his fuel just enough to cover the 600-mile distance to snap a 31-race winless streak and collect his first victory of the season in Sunday night’s Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Edwards ran the final 60 laps on a single tank of fuel and beat out his former teammate Greg Biffle to score his first-career Charlotte victory and his first driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. It was also the 300th NASCAR victory for Toyota.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. came home third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex, Jr.
The victory was the first for Edwards since winning at Sonoma last June, and locks him into the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) is back and these Toyotas are great. I was the slowest of the group tonight and I just had the best guys on the pit box here and did a great job,” said Edwards. “I can’t believe we won this race.
“Hopefully all that back luck we’ve had got – I guess it got negated or equaled out by the good luck today. We’ve had such bad luck. We were the slowest of the bunch tonight and had Darian (Grubb, crew chief) up on the box and made the right call. He put us in a position to win and it worked.”
Truex, Jr. had the fastest car in the field on the night, leading a race-high 131 laps in a three-way battle with Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin for much of the last half of the race. Hamlin would eventually give up the lead to pit for a loose wheel on lap 363.
Truex, Jr. inherited the lead and held to the top spot heading into the final stretch before giving up the lead to pit for fuel with 20 laps left.
Once the leaders cycled through their pit stops, Edwards found himself in the lead with a four second lead over Biffle with Earnhardt, Jr. in third and Kenseth in fifth.
Over the final ten laps, Edwards increased his lead to nearly five seconds as Truex began fighting his way back through the field, finally working his way back into the top five after Aric Almirola gave up his top-five position to pit for fuel.
Despite having the best car on the night, Truex ran out of time to mount a challenge for any of the top four as Edwards stretched it to the finish, beating out Biffle by 4.8 seconds.
“I was worried,” said Edwards of those final laps. “Greg Biffle is tenacious. He is just an extremely tough competitor, and I was driving pretty hard. Darian told me we could make it. I don't know if he was lying to me or not, how close we were.
“With all the things that I've screwed up and have had happen this year and all the bad luck we've had, I figured something would happen. But it just worked out.”
Although he up short of snapping his own 69-race winless streak, Biffle’s runner-up finish breathed new life into the Roush-Fenway organization, who have struggled mightily in the last two seasons.
“I’m really excited for the team and the organization. We’ve been working really, really hard on our cars. It’s been well documented how bad we’ve been running, so it feels good,” said Biffle. “We knew that Carl was gonna try and make it, and certainly nobody knows whether he had enough gas. I was sure hoping and praying that maybe he’d be about a lap short because we’ve lost a few, everybody has lost a few like that, but it is what it is.
“I stayed in front of the 88 (Earnhardt, Jr.) and finished second and it’s a big boost for the team, but probably a bigger boost for the team was how we ran tonight on the race track.”
“I don’t know what to do about fuel mileage races. I’ve never ever, ever, ever, ever. One time in my whole career I came out on the right end of them, so I don’t know,” said Truex, Jr. “It hurts to come home fifth and run that hard. But at the same time, it’s pretty awesome to run like that, too. So, we’ve just got to keep plugging away and sooner or later we’re going to get a little bit of luck on our side. Right now, we can’t get anything to go our way.”
Ryan Newman finished sixth, while Brad Keselowski, Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch rounded out the top ten.
After sitting out the first 11 races of the season recovering from injuries suffered in the season-opening NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Kyle Busch went the entire 600-mile distance to finish 11th.
“I feel pretty good. All in all, I felt like that was a great race for us,” said Kyle Busch. “We ran really strong. We ran up front, and we showed we had some speed. I feel good, and I admit I've probably got a little left foot soreness, but other than that, everything is pretty hunky‑dory.”
The night ended early for all-time Charlotte win leader Jimmie Johnson. After recovering from an earlier spin on lap 91, Johnson spun again on lap 275, nailing the inside wall near the entrance to pit road. Johnson spent nearly 30 laps in the garage getting repairs and ended the night 40th, dropping to fifth in the points standings.
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article