Carl Edwards‘ first Southern 500 win came after an eight-lap shootout following the 18th and final restart at Darlington Raceway.
After miscommunication led to him missing an early pit stop, Edwards found himself in a three-way battle with pole-sitter Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick with less than 25 laps to go. But a caution with 13 to go forced the leaders to pit and it was Edwards narrowly winning the race off pit road for the lead, which he held all the way to the checkered flag for his second win of the year.
“Our guys never quit, JGR is unbelievable. These guys are working so hard,” Edwards said of the team he joined in 2015 after more than a decade driving at Roush Fenway Racing.
After thanking his sponsors, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver thanked former teammate and NBC analyst Jeff Burton.
“The first time I came here, we sat and watched tape in Jack Roush’s offices at his shop,” Edwards said. “Just can’t thank everybody enough that’s helped me.”
In 2015, Edwards is the winner of the longest race in distance (Coca-Cola 600) and the longest in time. Sunday’s race took 4 hours, 28 minutes and 45 seconds.
When it was over, back flip and all, Edwards’ teammates altered the lettering on the frontstretch to claim Edwards’ 25th-career win took place at “Carlington Raceway.”
HOW CARL EDWARDS WON: Edwards beat the leaders off pit road following a caution with 13 laps to go, got to the lead on the restart and wasn’t challenged the rest of the way.
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: As has happened multiple times this summer, Brad Keselowski led the most laps (196) of the race but couldn’t seal the deal after Edwards beat him off pit road during the final caution … A day after winning the Xfinity Series race, Denny Hamlin led 57 laps on the way to his 100th career top-five finish … Kurt Busch was in the top-five for much of the night, but he had to bounce back from a spin to finish sixth … Ryan Newman came back from a Lap 46 spin to finish 13th.
WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Chase Elliott, in his last of five Sprint Cup races this year, brought out the first caution on Lap 7 when he was collected in a wreck with Cole Whitt and Brett Moffitt. Elliott was able to stay on the lead lap, but would find the outside wall on Lap 229, ending his night and finishing 41st, 140 laps off the lead … Michael Annett spun out on his own on Lap 109 to bring out the fourth caution of the day … Lap 115 saw Mike Bliss‘ No. 33 hit the outside wall to bring about the fifth caution of the night. He would be in the vicinity of an accident on the very next restart, with Annett crashing a second time, collecting J.J. Yeley … Roush Fenway Racing: Three straight cautions saw Roush cars in trouble, beginning with Trevor Bayne spinning out from a flat tire to cause the eighth caution of the night on Lap 165. Then Ricky Stenhouse Jr., spun out after hitting Clint Bowyer and went hood first into the inside wall on the front stretch for the 10th caution. That was followed by Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch spinning just a few laps later … David Ragan caused two cautions, spinning out and hitting the inside wall on the frontstretch on Laps 265 and 279.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I don’t think I can get in trouble for saying how much I liked it. But I loved it. This is as good as it gets.” Carl Edwards on the racing with the low-downforce package.
NOTABLE: The active leader in wins at Darlington, Jeff Gordon finished 16th … The race broke the previous record of cautions (17, 2009) by one.
NEXT: Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 12 at 7: 30 PM ET on NBCSN.