FORT WORTH, TX - The green flag for the AAA Texas 500, the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ‘Round of Eight,’ was supposed to drop this afternoon at 1:00 PM Central time. Unfortunately, just as pre-race ceremonies were wrapping up, the sky began to fall. Soon after that, ‘we lost the track’, a term that is uttered when the racing surface gets extremely damp, couldn’t be more true.
The weather delay lasted for five hours. At around 5:45 PM local time, drivers were called to their cars and the command to start engines was given at around 6:15 PM. After the cars rolled off the grid to help with some last-minute track drying, NASCAR decided to execute a green-yellow start, meaning that the first few seven laps of the race were scored. The green flag finally dropped at just after the clock struck 7:00 PM.
On lap 290, the heavens opened up again in a big way. At just 42 laps to go, NASCAR had to make the decision to continue or call it a night. The latter was decided.
Carl Edwards entered Texas Motor Speedway below the cut line in the Chase standings and needing a win to have a chance at a Sprint Cup championship. Some might say it was an act of Mother Nature that would advance him to the ‘Championship Four’ as the driver of the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota led 36 or 293 laps before rain ended the scheduled 334-lap race. With the victory, Edwards moves to second in the playoff standings behind Jimmie Johnson who finished 11th in tonight’s event.
Edwards took the lead just as the second rain shower of the day began to surface. “I actually enjoyed it,” he said in a post-race Toyota Racing transcript. “That pressure was really mounting and obviously this is what we had to do. We were in a bad spot if we went green again, but like I said the last run before it rained I think we could’ve held them off. I’m not sure. He (Joey Logano) was really good on the bottom. My car was starting to go away. I ran pretty hard there at the start, but man, that’s fun. And, Martin (Truex Jr.) did a great job. If we wouldn’t have beat him off of pit road obviously we wouldn’t have got this, but man it was really fun chasing him down and racing with him the run before that.”
For the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team, one pit stop turned out to be the key. “Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys they got me off of pit road first,” Edwards said. “That’s what won it for us. My pit crew has worked really hard this year so I just can’t thank them enough.”
After losing out to Tony Stewart in 2011, Edwards is ecstatic about racing for a championship this year. “This is huge. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” he said. “This is cool. This team is really worked hard all year and man it’s just really cool. That’s all we said we needed was a shot and now we’re going to go to Homestead and we’re going to do what we have to do. This was a great test. We came here and knew what we had to do, we performed the way we needed to and I really believe we can do that at Homestead.”
Joey Logano also came to the Lone Star State below the cut line, but with a second-place showing, the driver of the No. 22 AAA Ford advanced to third in the Chase standings. Logano led 178 laps, the most of the evening. “We had a good AAA Fusion that was capable of winning the race,” he said in a Ford Racing advance. “We just lost our track position on a green-flag cycle and got our balance off a little bit. We got it fixed and got it going and had a good restart at the end to get back to second but it seemed like we needed maybe five or 10 more laps to try to catch the 19 there. We were making up about three-tenths a lap when the caution came out. It is what it is. We are disappointed with second which is a good thing.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third. "I needed another (pit) stop. I needed it to go all the way to the end," the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota said, also in the Toyota post-race transcript. "We were really good on the long runs. We were really good on new tires after green flag stops. I was really hoping it would go all the way. That was going to be our only chance to win after that last restart. Was hoping it did. It was a little frustrating tonight. But like I said, all in all, a good weekend for us, a good run.”
Austin Dillon started on the pole but finished 37th. For most of the night, the driver of the No. 3 Realtree/Bad Boy Chevrolet ran near the top five positions on the board. Unfortunately, Dillon ran into trouble on lap 264 when he was involved in an incident with the No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick.
“He sucked down on my door all the way, like on it,” Dillon said after the accident and in a Team Chevy transcript. I get it, you’ve got to hold a guy down, but he sucked down on my door and got me tight. That is the reason I slid up in front of him and then he didn’t lift he just turned me. He knew how tight he was on my door and that is why I got tight and slid up in front of him. He didn’t check (up), but he had the opportunity to. He didn’t like it that the silver spoon kid was out-running him tonight.”
The weather-impacted race lasted for three hours and 16 minutes. There were eight cautions for 37 laps and 12 lead changes among eight drivers.
There are now just two races remaining in the 2016 season. After the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway next Sunday, we will know who is in the ‘Championship Four’. Local NBC affiliates, MRN and Sirius XM Channel 90 will have the coverage.
RESULTS – AAA Texas 500
- Carl Edwards
- Joey Logaano
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Chase Elliott
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Matt Kenseth
- Kasey Kahne
- Denny Hamlin
- Ryan Newman