AVONDALE, Ariz. – Carl Edwards broke a 70-race winless streak Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, pulling away during a green-white-checkered restart to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Edwards ran at or near the front all day, but took the lead for the final time during pit stops under caution on lap 238. He was able to quickly put some distance between himself and second-place Jimmie Johnson on the following restart.
Edwards and Johnson ran first and second throughout the final segment of the race, with Johnson occasionally closing the gap only for Edwards to once again pull away. As the lead pair battled for supremacy, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski quickly began to close the gap in third.
The race looked all but over with three laps left, that is until Ken Schrader lost a tire and bounced off the wall to bring out the final caution flag of the race. The caution not only put teams in a green-white-checkered scenario, but about questions of fuel mileage for the leaders.
During the restart Edwards was able to get a big jump on Johnson thanks to a push from Keselowski heading into turn one. Clear of the rest of the pack, Edwards pulled away 1.024-second victory.
“Jimmy Fennig is the man. The pit crew is unreal. They won this race for us,” said Edwards, who led a race-high 122 laps. “This is huge. This is the Subway race and we won it. We are back.”
Edwards was happy to break his long losing streak, which would have reached two years next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I try to stay positive, but we really, really like winning,” Edwards said. “I can’t say enough about everybody believing in me. I’m telling you, we’re back. This is going to be good. Whatever it is you’re doing out there don’t lose hope. You just keep digging and things can work out, I’m proof.
“This is just awesome. One of the coolest wins of my life.”
With Edwards clear of the pack, the battle ended up being for second between Johnson, Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. On the final lap Hamlin got a big run heading into turn three and was able to get alongside Johnson for second. The two rubbed fenders coming to the finish line, with Johnson just edging Hamlin for the position.
“Just very proud of this whole Hendrick team and everybody on this Lowe’s car,” Johnson said. “Everybody during the off-season worked real hard to get us ready and to open like this, great qualifying efforts, great speed in the race, great pit stops. Across the board I’m very proud of this Lowe’s team.”
Hamlin finished the race in third, followed by Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Polesitter Mark Martin led 75 laps but finished 21st after pitting during the final caution period.