|credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs|
by Lisa Janine Cloud
Carl Edwards secured his chance to compete for the championship with a win in the rain-shortened AAA Texas 500 Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway. The race was scheduled for 334 laps, 501 miles but ended just shy of that mark with the red flag displayed at Lap 293.
After confirming with pace car driver Brett Bodine that the track had indeed been lost, and that it would take a minimum of two hours to dry, NASCAR called the race.
Rain began falling at the end of the national anthem, leading to a delay of almost exactly five hours from the scheduled 1:04 p.m. CST start time. After running a number of laps to help dry the track, the green and yellow flags flew, and five laps later the field took the green. However, with the specter of more rain looming, the teams stayed on edge through the night.
“That pressure was really mounting and obviously this is what we had to do,” Edwards said in Victory Lane. “Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys, they got me off of pit road first. That’s what won it for us. My pit crew has worked really hard this year, so I just can’t thank them enough. Sport Clips, Arris, Stanley, Toyota, everybody that’s behind this team. We’ve got a shot at the championship going to Homestead. This is going to be great.”
Joey Logano led the most laps with 178, but the No. 19 pit crew put Edwards out front on Lap 253 with a pit stop that was under 11 seconds, and Logano just didn’t get enough laps to catch him. The driver of the No. 22 was philosophical about the situation, though.
“The team did a very good job on executing when we needed to,” said Logano. “Just, you know, didn't have enough laps. It seemed like the momentum swung the other way about three or four laps to go before the caution came out when I started catching the 19 pretty rapidly. Unfortunately it just started raining. That was the end of the race, so… you know, it is what it is.”
Third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr. needed another stop to contend for the win.
“I needed it to go all the way to the end," Truex Jr. said. "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. It was a little frustrating tonight. But like I said, all in all, a good weekend for us, a good run.”
Chase Elliott finished fourth despite having had flu-like symptoms during the day, with Justin Allgaier on standby. Kyle Busch managed a fifth-place showing despite having a hole punched in the nose of the No. 18 early in the evening.
The race slowed eight times for caution, including the green-yellow start, for a total of 37 laps. One of those cautions was for the No. 27 of Paul Menard spinning in Turn 4. During his pit stop a tire exploded in front of the tire specialist, Mason Jennings, sending him to the infield care center. He was released a short time later.
The final caution came out when Kevin Harvick got into Austin Dillon on Lap 263. Harvick claimed he had no malicious intent, but Dillon saw the situation differently and showed he has a racer’s memory.
“I mean, he was tucked down to my door tighter than anybody did all night,” said Dillon. “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. So we will be all right, we have two weeks left and we just want to come out and win a race.”
The spoon comment referenced comments made after a 2013 Camping World Truck Series race, where Harvick battled Dillon’s brother Ty and ended up wrecking. Harvick accused the Dillon brothers of having “everything fed to them with a spoon.”
Heading into Phoenix for the final elimination before the championship race, the remaining six members of the Round of 8 must battle for the final two positions.
The point standings after Texas:
Jimmie Johnson - 4074
Joey Logano - 4074
Kyle Busch - 4074
Matt Kenseth - 4073
Denny Hamlin - 4072
Kevin Harvick - 4056
Carl Edwards - 4049
Kurt Busch - 4040
See the final unofficial race results here.