BRISTOL, Tenn. — Recap by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — Matt Hazlett/Getty Images North America photo —
While the battle for second was going on between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch in the closing laps Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards saw them disappear in his rearview mirror.
Edwards led 276 of 500 laps to score his fourth Cup win at BMS and the third-consecutive week a Joe Gibbs Racing driver ended up in victory lane. Kurt Busch gave the Missouri native a run for his money on a late-race restart, but Edwards drove away to win and lock himself into this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“There were so many different things happening out there, different guys are fast at different times,” Edwards said. “I gotta work on my drag racing stuff. Kurt’s got those restarts figured out, he’s tough. Just awesome though and a real testament to my team. These guys have been working really hard. We got the Comcast Business folks here. They help put this whole thing together with ARRIS, Toyota, TRD, Stanley and all the folks that made this No. 19 team happen. Thanks to Sprint, Cessna, XFINITY, all the folks that made this happen.”
“Now we’re in the Chase, we can go have some fun and so cool, awesome to be here.”
Edwards stayed out of troublwhile his JGR teammates ran into issues during Sunday’s Food City 500.
“There was some concern, but for some reason, our car, we didn’t have any of those issues. Really proud of my guys. This team is awesome and Dave doesn’t quit. He was almost reading my mind in the race. He was telling right when I needed them. Just a great day.”
Having the No. 1 pit stall by virtue of winning the pole Friday gave the No. 19 Comcast Business team the best pit stall and used it to their advantage throughout the afternoon. Edwards was knocking on the door of victory lane up until the Bristol victory with a near-miss at Phoenix, being edged by Kevin Harvick there and led the most laps last week at Texas.
Three of the four JGR cars are now practically guaranteed into the 2016 chase as Matt Kenseth has yet to crack victory lane this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr, came back from an issue with the electronic control unit (ECU) on the race’s initial start and fell two laps down early to come back to finish runner-up. Earnhardt was the highest-finishing Hendrick Motorsports driver as Super Bowl 50 MVP and recently-retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning was also in attendance to see him storm back towards the front.
“We got the Roush system on our cars for the stuck-throttle issue, and just warming the brakes up, I engaged that system to kill the throllte. I was warming the brakes up like I always do, and apparently I applied too much pressure and it killed the motor. We’ll work on that and maybe raise that threshold a little bit because I wasn’t really using the brake that much.
“So I just needed to cycle the ECU, reset that, came to pit road and did that. I probably could’ve done it on the track and saved ourselves a lot of trouble, but you don’t know what’s going on at that particular point, and you listen to the first thing anybody tells you when it comes to direction, and the first thing that my spotter said was that if I need to pit, I need to come in now. We got to pit road, cycled it, lost a couple laps.”
Earnhardt ties his season-best finish with the other runner-up showing coming e at Atlanta in February. Kurt Busch held on to his No.41 Chevrolet to get third and Chase Elliott recorded his best-career series finish with a fourth in Thunder Valley.
“Guys brought a good car this weekend,” Elliott said. “We started a little slow, didn’t qualify as well as we’d like to on Friday but I thought we hit on a couple things yesterday in final practice that fortunately carried over to today and was able to kind of work our way up through there.”
Elliott fought a tire issue on lap 162 and battled back from two laps down to score the top-five finish. The Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender has back-to-back top-five finishes heading into next weekend’s race at Richmond.
Knoxville native Trevor Bayne finished in the top-five for the first time since his upset win in the 2011 Daytona 500 and led the Roush-Fenway bunch with a fifth-place showing. Bayne made the final round of qualifying Friday and fought his way back in the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford.
“It feels like a win here to get a top-five and we’ve been fighting really hard lately and we’ve got some good runs going in our favor, so just proud of what my guys are doing. It took some good restarts at the end to get there. We had a top-five car early on and made some mistakes, but we were able to fight back to get a top-five out of it.”
Another driver who had a strong Bristol run was Matt DiBenedetto, bringing home his No. 83 Cosmo Motors Toyota for BK Racing and making the sixth-place run the best finish for BK racing since their inception into the Cup Series in 2012.
The caution flag flew 15 times during the 500-lap event with some big name drivers having trouble at the Tennessee track. Kyle Busch’s disastrous weekend continued with two flat-tires until the final blow came on lap 258 when the defending Sprint Cup champ smacked the wall on lap 259 and ending any chances of adding a third-consecutive Cup win in 2016.
“I’m not sure what started it, but we were a little snug early on, first run of the race. As the car would run more and more laps, it kept getting tighter and tighter and that’s the weirdest thing that I felt all weekend and we didn’t have that problem. Not sure what happened. This track sucked for me ever since the grind here, so I’m about sick and tired of coming here. It sucks to race, but it’s on the schedule, so we have to come here.”
“Once I got single-file there after that last restart, I was just cruising. I was riding along just and the car felt tight, so I don’t know why it kept getting tighter and blowing right-fronts.”
The series heads to another short-track next weekend at Richmond International Raceway for the ToyotaCare 400 Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Ch. 90)
RESULTS: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series;Food City 500; Bristol Motor Speedway; April 17, 2016
- Carl Edwards
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kurt Busch
- Chase Elliott
- Trevor Bayne
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Kevin Harvick
- Clint Bowye
- Ryan Newman
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Blaney
- Greg Biffle
- Jamie McMurray
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Paul Menard
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Kasey Kahne
- Brad Keselowski
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Denny Hamlin
- Chris Buescher
- Landon Cassill
- Jimmie Johnson
- Casey Mears
- Ty Dillon
- Austin Dillon
- Danica Patrick
- Cole Whitt
- Michael McDowell
- Brian Scott
- Michael Annett
- Jeffrey Earnhardt
- Josh Wise
- Aric Almirola
- Kyle Larson
- Matt Kenseth
- Regan Smith
- Kyle Busch
- David Ragan
- Reed Sorenson