Carl Edwards had one of the strongest cars at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night. He led 206 laps, over half the race, but a questionable black flag late in the race forced him to fight his way back to a 10th-place finish.
Edwards started the race second in his No. 99 Ford EcoBoost Fusion and took the lead by lap 30. He led much of the first half of the race and looked to be the driver to beat. Edwards received two bonus points for leading the most laps of any driver.
It seemed like a lucky break when the caution came just as Edwards was about to make a green-flag stop on lap 311. Many teams had already pitted during a green-flag cycle, but now Edwards was able to make what should have been his final stop of the night under caution. The Blue Team had an amazing night in the pits and after this stop it looked as though Edwards would line up second behind Tony Stewart.
As the race resumed there was some confusion about Edwards’ starting position. A NASCAR official told spotter Jason Hedlesky that Edwards was the leader and the scoring tower showed the same thing. When the green flag flew Edwards wasted no time moving ahead of Stewart who appeared to have a slow start.
NASCAR determined that Edwards had jumped the start and black flagged him to serve a pass-thru penalty. Despite the protests of crew chief Bob Osborne to the officials, Edwards came down pit road to serve his penalty and fell back to 15th place. With 29 laps to go he lost a lap to the leaders.
A much-needed caution for debris came on lap 387 which gave Edwards the lucky dog award. He was able to pit for fresh tires and restart the race 13th, on the lead lap, with nine laps to go.
In the closing laps he was able to work his way back up to 10th place. It was a disappointing finish considering the strength of the car and team throughout the race.
Kyle Busch won the race followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne. Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Edwards rounded out the top 10.
“Right before that start my spotter Jason Hedlesky was told by the NASCAR officials ‘the 99 is the leader,’” Edwards said. “Jason told me, I had a split second to decide what I was going to do, and I thought NASCAR made a mistake and lined us up wrong. I was at a disadvantage being on the outside so I thought ‘I’m getting the best start I can get right now.’ I got the best start I could get and it looked like Tony either waited or spun his tires so they black flagged me.
“I still don’t understand why they black flagged me. They said we were the leader so I restarted the best I could, given the disadvantaged position I was in, so I don’t know if NASCAR will take the stance that we shouldn’t have started the race first, or that I jumped the start. If they are saying I jumped the start that would be real frustrating because I restarted the same way I restarted all night.”