Thanks to help from the weatherman, Carl Edwards punched his ticket into the Sprint Cup championship race in Miami, winning Sunday’s rain-shortened AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Edwards led when rain began to fall, prompting NASCAR to wave the caution flag on Lap 290. Cars continued around the track under caution until Lap 294 when NASCAR summoned cars to pit road.
A few moments later, NASCAR officials ruled the event official — 40 laps shy of its scheduled 334-lap distance — and awarded the win to Edwards, his fourth career Sprint Cup victory at TMS.
“I actually enjoyed it,” Edwards said of the pressure he faced, coming into the race 32 points behind the points leaders, last in the standings. “The pressure was really mounting and obviously this was what we had to do. … We have a shot at the championship, and that’s all we wanted. I can’t wait to go to Homestead. We’re going to have a blast.”
The key to Edwards’ win was an outstanding pit stop on Lap 258. Edwards’ crew made a four-tire and fuel stop in 11.8 seconds, while Truex, who came onto pit road in the lead, had a 12.5-second stop, allowing Edwards to take the lead.
“If we wouldn’t have beat him off pit road, we probably wouldn’t see this,” Edwards said.
This will be Edwards’ first title chance since he lost the 2011 crown to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker.
Edwards joins Jimmie Johnson, who won last week at Martinsville, in the championship round. Two more spots will be filled after next weekend’s race at Phoenix.
Chase driver Joey Logano finished second. He led 178 of the first 188 laps.
“Second stinks,” Logano told NBCSN after the race. “The rain came a little sooner than I wanted to. It would be interesting if we would have had another 10-15 laps, what would have happened, but is what it is.”
Martin Truex Jr., who took over the lead from Logano on Lap 189 after a series of green-flag pit stops, finished third.
As for the Chase standings, Johnson and Edwards are tied, Logano and Kyle Busch are both one point behind. Below the Chase cutoff are Matt Kenseth (-1), Denny Hamlin (-2), Kevin Harvick (-18) and Kurt Busch (-34).
HOW EDWARDS WON: An outstanding pit stop on Lap 258 won it for Edwards, allowing him to overtake Martin Truex Jr. Another key was Edwards maintained consistency and patience throughout the race, hanging around the top-five the majority of the time, until what proved to be his race-winning pit stop.
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: While disappointed that he did not win, which would have earned him a spot in the Chase championship race, Joey Logano dominated the first half of the race.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kurt Busch (20th) is last in the Chase grid, 34 points out of first place and 33 points short of the cutoff. He’s essentially in a must-win situation next Sunday at Phoenix. … Pole-sitter Austin Dillon, who was involved in a late-race multi-car crash, finished 37th. Casey Mears was also in the wreck and finished 39th.
NOTABLE: Because of the rain, Edwards did not perform his trademark post-win flip off his race car. “I think I’m going to keep the backflip for Homestead. It’s probably the safe thing to do.” … Harvick, who won the first edition of the new Chase format in 2014 and reached the final round last year, is in jeopardy of not advancing this year. But he’s going to Phoenix – where he has won six of the last eight races.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That’s all we said we needed was a shot. And now we’re going to go to Homestead and do what we need to do … and I really believe we can do it at Homestead.” – Carl Edwards.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 13 (2:30 p.m. ET).