Edwards, Fennig Conquer Bristol's Colosseum
SPARTA, Ky. - Veteran Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) Crew Chief Jimmy Fennig's fearless call to keep the No. 99 Ford Fusion on the track during a caution period on Lap 424 of 503 formed a foundation on which Carl Edwards delivered his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) victory of the season and his third in the series at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS).
In a race in which several of the 12 caution periods were initiated by tire failure, Fennig's decisiveness moved Edwards from second place to the race lead for the first time on Lap 426. He survived a caution restart on Lap 462 and sealed his second top-five and third top-10 finish of the season by leading the closing 78 circuits.
The 43-car field took the green flag ahead of schedule just after 1 p.m., and went under a red flag on Lap 125 due to rain. The race resumed following three-hour, 18-minute-and-58-second delay.
This season's fourth event ended under unique conditions when a bank of facility caution lights unintentionally activated with two laps remaining just before heavy rains descended on the track. NASCAR was forced to end the race under caution.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and his RFR No. 17 joined Aric Almirola and his Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) No. 43 in completing a Ford Racing top-three sweep. Stewart-Haas Racing driver Tony Stewart crossed the finish line fourth in the No. 14 and Ford-backed wheelman Marcos Ambrose nailed down fifth in the RPM No. 9.
"Jimmy Fennig makes some calls. That's a gutsy call with all the tire trouble, but our Goodyears were good all day.
"I was really dreading that last restart. Ricky and Aric are as hungry as anybody to win. That was going to be a battle.
"It's an awesome night. I just can't believe we turned this thing around. We were terrible Saturday (in practice). Jimmy's the man.
"We're in the Chase. We're going to go out and win this championship," Edwards said after he locked up his 22nd series victory.
The fourth different NSCS victor in as many races this season was additionally proud of the strength displayed by the Ford livery on a tough half-mile track billed as "The Last Great Colosseum."
"How 'bout Ford? For them to finish one, two, three, five - that's a big turnaround from the other night. All the Fords were strong at the end. We had tons of power," he added.
Stenhouse Jr.'s career-best NSCS performance brought him his first top-five and second top-10 finish of the season.
"(Crew Chief) Mike Kelley got this Ford Fusion rolling pretty good. We felt good about it all weekend. This is a track we were good on in (the) Nationwide (Series).
"Everything held together and we came home with our first top five of the year. Hopefully, we can keep this goin'," Stenhouse Jr., analyzed.
Almirola also notched his career-best series finish. It marked his first top-five and top-10 effort of the young NSCS campaign.
"Our car was really good on the long runs; we were just way too tight on the short runs. It seemed like Carl, and a few of the other guys, would get loose off (the turns) the longer we went and my car stayed really good. I was hoping it would stay green. Maybe we would've had a shot to win. I'm really happy with everyone on this team," he said.
Edwards vaulted from sixth to third in the series standings and will enter the series' March 23 event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., trailing new championship leader Brad Keselowski, who placed 14th in the race in the Team Penske No. 2, by 11 points.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., slid from first to second in the series standings following his 24th-place finish. He will travel to the Golden State 10 points off the lead.
The series returns to our speedway June 28 for the fourth Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts. Single-race tickets, weekend ticket packages, weekend camping and infield Kroger Fan Zone passes can be purchased through the respective pages of this website, by calling (859) 578-2300 or by visiting our ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive in Sparta, Ky., just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N.
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