Carl Edwards wins fuel mileage battle to capture Coca-Cola 600, snaps 31-race winless streak

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Carl Edwards predicted before the season that he’d win 10 races and the Sprint Cup championship in 2015.

Well, after Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, it’s now one win down and nine to go.

“JGR is back and so is Toyota,” Edwards said of his first victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, having joined the team prior to this season after more than a decade with Roush Fenway Racing. “I can’t believe I won this race.”

Edwards becomes the ninth different driver to win a race in 2015 – and there are still 14 more races remaining before the start of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.

Edwards’ 24th career win in his 385th career Cup start broke a 31-race winless streak dating to last June at Sonoma. It also marked Edwards’ first career Cup win at Charlotte Motor Speedway after three previous third-place finishes.

Edwards led three times for a total of 25 laps in the race, including taking the lead for the final time with 21 laps remaining. Martin Truex Jr., who finished fifth, led the most laps: 131. Kurt Busch led the second most with 118.

Edwards’ former teammate, Greg Biffle, finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Truex.

Kyle Busch, in his first full race since returning from a broken right leg and fractured left foot, finished 11th.

How Edwards won: When Harvick and Keselowski came down pit road on Lap 380, 20 laps from the finish, Edwards’ crew chief Darian Grubb gambled by keeping his driver on the track for position and taking the lead in the process. Edwards had not pitted for fuel since Lap 338, but Grubb was confident his driver had saved enough fuel in the process to make it to the finish line – and the gamble paid off.

Who else had a good day: Biffle had his best finish of the season and best finish since placing second in last season’s spring race at Talladega. Biffle said: “It feels good, we ran in the top 10 all night and this wasn’t a gimme.” … Truex led the most laps and appeared headed to his first win since 2013, but fell back in the closing laps to finish fifth, his 11th top-10 finish in the first 12 races of 2015. “Sooner or later we’re going to get a little bit of luck on our side. Right now, we just can’t get nothing to go our way.”

Who had a bad day: Jimmie Johnson had a race-winning capable car, but the handling went away twice, once while adjusting the track bar early in the event and then again on Lap 274, when he lost control, came on to pit road and slammed the inside retaining wall. He took the car to the garage for repairs, and while he returned on Lap 301, his night was done for all intents and purposes. Johnson finished 40th. … Ryan Blaney had his motor fail on Lap 282 while running 14th. “There was really no issue,” Blaney said. “It sputtered and started to go maybe half a lap before and then it really went up. I didn’t expect it to really explode like that.”

Notables: Shortly after the mid-point of the race, Denny Hamlin reported that the motor in his Toyota wasn’t sounding right, that there might be an exhaust problem. But Hamlin mustered on and the car didn’t seem to have lost anything. Hamlin ultimately finished eighth. … Edwards becomes the eighth different driver to win a Sprint Cup race for Joe Gibbs Racing, which claimed its 117th all-time Cup win. … It was the third win for Toyota at Charlotte. It’s also the third win for the manufacturer this season, exceeding last season’s two victories for the entire 36-race schedule.

Quote of the Day: “I don’t know what to do about fuel mileage races,” Truex said. “I never, never, ever, ever one time in my whole career come out on the right end of ‘em. I never get good fuel mileage.”

What’s next: FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks, Dover International Speedway; Dover, Del.

Follow @JerryBonkowski