On a day that Bristol was rough to most, Carl Edwards conquered the concrete en route to a dominating performance Sunday afternoon.
The No. 19 car started from pole and never looked back. Edwards was out front for a race-high 276 laps, over 130 laps more than his closest competitor. While clinching a birth in the 2016 edition of the Chase, he also posted his fourth top-five finish and seventh top 10 result. His triumph came in the defeat of his three teammates.
“There are so many different things happening out there,” Edwards said post-race. “Different guys are fast at different times. It’s a real testament to my team. They’ve been working so hard. This team is awesome. Dave [Rogers, crew chief] doesn’t quit, he can almost read my mind and tell me things exactly when I need them.”
This is Edwards’ first short-track victory as a part of Joe Gibbs Racing, but his fourth career victory at Bristol, the last one coming in this race two years ago.
After not getting off to a good start, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished in the runner-up position on Sunday. On the initial restart of the race, the No. 88 car had no power and as a result fell two laps down before he had even completed a lap.
Just passed halfway Earnhardt made his way into the top 10, where he would remain for the majority of the second part of the event. This is his third second-place finish of 2016.
“We got a lot of luck on the last several restarts,” Earnhardt said. “We didn’t have a good enough car to run in the top five today. Greg [Ives, crew chief] and the guys did a good job at getting our laps back. We had a dead battery at the start of the race. The car was about a 10th or 15th-place car.”
Kurt Busch led 41 laps on Sunday, bringing his machine home in third. It didn’t take long for the No. 41 car to get inside the top 10 after starting in 26th. He could get good restarts, but never clear Edwards. If we were to have got ahead of the No. 19 car, there is a chance that the five-time Bristol winner would have added to that number.
Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott finished a career-high fourth in Bristol. Right around halfway, the No. 24 car had a loose tire so crew chief Alan Gustafson called the 19-year-old in to pit, where the team would lose two laps.
“The guys brought a fast car here this weekend,” Elliott said. “I hated that we had a loose wheel, but that stuff happens. The guys did a good job having a good pit stop under green and only losing two laps. It gave us a shot to get one down and then back on the lead lap. We’re chipping away, just not close enough.”
Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five, in his first top-five finish since he won the Daytona 500 back in 2011.
Matt DiBenedetto and Clint Bowyer both finished inside of the top 10, giving them their best finish of the season.
There were 15 cautions for 102 laps at Bristol, but the most notable were the four cautions thrown for Joe Gibbs Racing drivers blowing right front tires.
It started on Lap 51, when Kyle Busch blew a tire in Turn Two, while running in third. His trouble continued on Lap 259 when he blew a second tire, this one ending his day.
The bad luck for Matt Kenseth continued on Lap 186 when he blew a tire while leading. Prior to the melted bead the No. 20 Toyota was out front for 142 laps. After fighting his way back up to third, he blew a second tire on Lap 324. The team decided to go behind the wall and fix the damage, resulting in a 36th-place finish, 40 laps down.
On Lap 410, Denny Hamlin added to the trouble-filled day when a bead melted on his machine. He remained on the lead lap and finished 20th.
Loose tires and tire failures was the theme of the 500 laps at Bristol, something that teams will need to address before returning in August.