Carl Edwards storms to victory in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250
Carl Edwards stormed to victory in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 “Under the Lights” at Richmond International Raceway, battling all the way from the last starting position.
Edwards, who is nursing a broken foot sustained during a vigorous game of Frisbee commented, “It was a lot of fun. My pit crew won this one for me tonight. My guys did a great job on pit road. Once I was in front, my car was a rocket ship. It’s a really cool result and I’m ready for tomorrow.” The broken foot prevented Edwards from doing his customary victory back flip.
Finishing a strong second was Kevin Harvick in the #33 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet. Harvick said, “It was a lot of fun. We came up a little short. I got a little tight at the end. All you can ask for is a chance.” Commenting about contact with Denny Hamlin during the race, “Hamlin just got loose. No harm, no foul.”
NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Kyle Busch finished third and commented, “It was a good solid run. We just didn’t have enough for the front guys. We just barely held on to third.” This was Busch’s 9th top-10 finish in 12 tries at Richmond.
David Reutimann brought his Toyota home in fifth position. “We just needed long runs,” said Reutimann. “All the guys did a great job. My guys gave me good pit stops. I’m happy.”
Brad Keselowski finished 4th in his #88 Lipton Chevrolet. Keselowski, who lead race high 70 laps, said, “I was feeling good about running up front at the beginning. It was a strong night and had we had great pit stops.”
Justin Allgaier (#12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) was the top finishing rookie, coming home in 8th position. The Riverton, IL native said,” We had this race circled as a race that we wanted to come back and do well in. We had a good car on long runs; not so good on short runs. The crew had great stops and I didn’t make any mistakes like I did in Atlanta.”
Denny Hamlin, who was running in the lead for much of the race, yet finished in 17th position after a late-race pit stop following contact with Kevin Harvick, said, “I just got a little loose up there and I needed the whole track to save it. I didn’t know Kevin was still right there, and I got into him. I would have been content to spin and bring out a caution so I could pit and stay on the lead lap, but it just didn’t turn out that way. Before I got loose I was having a lot of fun. I love racing against Kevin. He’s a guy you can go side-by-side with. He holds his line and races clean. I’m glad I didn’t ruin his night or anything.”
The race got off to a slow start as 5 cars spun in turn 4 on the very first lap. Once the clean-up was complete, pole-sitter Hamlin (#20 Z-Line Designs/Operation Helmet Toyota) and team mate Kyle Busch (#18 Z-Line Designs/Racing For Kids Toyota) pulled out a comfortable lead over Martin Truex Jr. (#1 Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort Chevrolet) and Brad Keselowski (#88 Lipton Chevrolet). Carl Edwards (#60 Scotts Wild Bird Food Ford), who had qualified 39th, had to start from the back of the pack after his team made repairs to his racer. Edwards tore through the field, getting up to 19th position by lap 40.
On lap 40, Shelby Howard (#70 ForeTravel Motorcoach Chevrolet) slid up the race track and hit the wall, damaging the right side of his racing machine and bringing out the second caution of the night. All the front runners dove for the pits for their first service of the evening. Leader Denny Hamlin’s crew ran into trouble with the tires and sent their driver back into the race in third place. Keselowski’s crew made quick work during their stop, getting Brad out into the lead by inches over Kyle Busch.
When the race went green on lap 45, Hamlin got around Busch on the double-file restart and proceeded to hound Keselowski for the next 4 laps. Brad was able to hold off the hard-charging Joe Gibbs Racing driver and pull out a small lead. Busch got around Hamlin soon thereafter and took up the chase of the #88 Lipton machine. By lap 100, Keselowski had a one second lead over the pair of Busch and Hamlin, with a gap of 3 seconds back to Greg Biffle (#16 CitiFinancial Ford), Kevin Harvick (#33 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet) and Carl Edwards (!).
Lap 125 saw the third caution period of the night when debris was found on the track. Once again, all the front-runners headed to pit road for service. As happened on the first pit stop, Hamlin’s crew encountered problems with the lug nuts while changing a tire. The slow pit stop dropped Hamlin back to 6th on the road. Benefiting from the side-by-side restart, Hamlin was back up to second within a few laps.
The caution flag waved again on lap 135 after Jason Leffler (#38 Great Clips/Comcast Toyota) cut a tire in turn 3. Leffler was looking to the inside of Steve Wallace (#66 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet) in turn 3 when the #38 car slid up into Wallace’s machine with Leffler cutting a right front tire. His problems would be compounded when his crew failed to properly attach the left front tire during the ensuing pit stop. When he tried to drive away, the tire came off and rolled down pit road. Leffler threw his machine into reverse and returned to his pit for proper repairs.
When the racing action resumed, a thrilling side-by-side battle ensued between the Gibbs racing team mates. They would swap the lead several times over a 5 lap period, with Hamlin eventually pulling away and establishing a comfortable lead. By lap 175, Hamlin led by half a second over Carl Edwards. Kevin Harvick was third, Kyle Busch fourth and Brad Keselowski fifth.
The action grew intense on lap 194 when Kevin Harvick came up to battle Hamlin for the lead. Carl Edwards made it a three-way battle for a few laps. Harvick held a slight advantage until things really heated up on lap 202.
Lap 202 saw Denny Hamlin get way sideways coming out of turn 4. If Kevin Harvick’s machine hadn’t been on the inside, Hamlin would have spun into the infield. Instead, Hamlin bumped Harvick and cut the left-front tire of his machine. Harvick did a masterful job of saving his car from spinning out after the contact. He was able to stay in the lead ahead of Carl Edwards by less than a second until the caution waved on lap 225 for debris in turn 1.
With the leaders all needing fuel to make the finish, they headed to pit road for service. In what came to be the decisive moment of the race, Edwards’ crew rose to the occasion, getting their man out in the lead ahead of Kevin Harvick.
With 20 laps to go, Edwards held onto the lead as the green flag waved again. Lap 233 saw a 4-way battle for third place between Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann (#32 Dollar General Stores Toyota) and Martin Truex Jr., which was eventually decided in Busch’s favor.
Edwards held on to the lead until the end, to win by 1.170seconds ahead of Kevin Harvick and 2.503 seconds over Kyle Busch.