Late Caution Leaves Edwards Fifth at Michigan
BROOKLYN, MI - Michigan International Speedway has historically been a very strong track for Roush Fenway Racing, and this weekend was no exception. Carl Edwards won the Nationwide Series race on Saturday and hoped to sweep the weekend. With 10 laps to go it looked as if we would do just that, but a caution shuffled the field on pit road and left Edwards in fifth place when the checkered flag flew.
Edwards started the 200-lap race in 23rd but quickly worked his way up to the top 10 within 23 laps. His No. 99 Aflac's Now Hiring Ford was loose throughout much of the race, but the crew made adjustments on every stop to improve the handling. Edwards cracked the top five on lap 43 and briefly took the lead on lap 63 during a green-flag pit cycle.
By the halfway point he was running seventh. The car would start out loose on each run, but eventually get better the longer he ran. The races at Michigan generally have few cautions, but two cautions played a major role in the outcome of the race.
The first significant caution came on lap 160 during a green-flag pit cycle. Many teams had already pitted and just as Edwards about to pit the caution came for a spin. While several drivers who already pitted were caught a lap down, it worked to Edwards' advantage as he was scored in second place. He pitted for what should have been the final time during this caution and had enough fuel to finish the race.
He lined up third for the restart on lap 164 but charged to the front of the field and took the lead. Edwards pulled away from the field in clean air and in the closing laps he had a 1.3-second lead over second place.
The second significant caution came with nine laps to go and did not work in Edwards' favor this time. Only nine laps from potentially winning his second point race of the season, the yellow flag was displayed when Dale Earnhardt Jr., hit the wall. The leaders came to pit road for new tires to finish the race. The Aflac team took right-side tires and a splash of fuel, but came out of the pits in third place. Racing resumed with five laps to go and as the leaders went three-wide, Edwards was shuffled back to fifth where he finished the race.
Denny Hamlin led the final eight laps to win the race followed by Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Edwards. Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Brian Vickers rounded out the top 10.
"I was going to go all the way to the top of the grandstands to celebrate with the fans today if I won," Edwards said. "I just appreciate all the fans coming out here. This is a great race track and track position is so important. Denny earned this win, but track position is huge and I just wish it wasn't like that."
Edwards and the No. 99 team continue to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and increased their lead to 20 points over Kevin Harvick. The next race will be Sunday, June 26 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Coverage will begin at 3:00 p.m. (ET) on TNT.