BRISTOL, Tenn.– Carl Edwards led over half the race on his way to scoring the victory at Thunder Valley.
The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led 276 of the 500 laps on his way to winning the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s his 26th career victory in the Sprint Cup Series and fourth at Bristol.
“There were so many different things happening out there,” Edwards said. “Different guys were fast at different times. I have to work on my drag racing stuff, Kurt (Busch) has those restarts figured out. He was tough. Just awesome. This is a real testament to my team. The guys have been working really hard. We’ve got Comcast Business folks here and they helped put this whole thing together with ARRIS and Toyota, TRD, Stanley – all the folks that made this 19 team happen. Just great and so awesome. Thanks to Sprint and Cessna and all the folks that make this happen. Now we’re in the Chase and we can go have some fun. Just so cool, awesome to be here.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. overcame an issue with a loss of power after making an unscheduled stop on the first lap and finished runner-up in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“We had a lot of luck on those last several restarts,” Earnhardt said. “You start on the outside and just gain some spots just being on the right lane. We didn’t have a good enough car to run in the top-five today, but Greg (Ives, crew chief) and those guys did a great job getting our laps back. We had a dead battery at the start of the race; something bad like that, same thing I think happened to the No. 22. That cost us two laps early in the race and we worked real hard. Greg did a great job helping us get our laps back. The car was about a 15th or 10th-place car. We were just lucky on those restarts as to where we lined up. And that really helped us.”
Kurt Busch led 41 laps to round out the podium in his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
“We just battled through it,” Busch said. “Junior had trouble at the start and I was 40th when we started the race. One car at a time. One set of tires at a time. And then we were in great position around lap 350. We got the lead from Edwards for a little bit. And we just kept working on it. And there’s nothing more that I could have gotten out of the car. I’m really happy with the way that everybody worked together. I shouldn’t be happy about finishing third, but I’ll take it. It’s just a great effort. And the way that this team has come together is perfect. We just need to find that last little bit.”
Chase Elliott finished fourth in his No. 24 HMS Chevrolet.
“The guys brought a fast car here this weekend,” Elliott said. “Started off a little slow. I didn’t qualify as well as we wanted to on Friday, but we hit on a couple of things, I thought, right there towards the end of final practice yesterday that we really liked. Fortunately that carried over to today and I was able to move forward. I hated to have a loose wheel, but stuff happens. The guys did a good job having a good pit stop under green. We only ended up losing two laps and that gave us a shot to get back. One down, and then trying to get back to the lead lap. It was a long day but I’m definitely proud of the effort. We’re chipping away, just not close enough.”
Trevor Bayne overcame a commitment line violation to round out the top-five with his second career top-five finish in his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“It was a lot of battling back,” Bayne said. “We went through a lot of adversity to get there, but we just didn’t give up. We had a really good race car. That’s what paid off. You can’t come back if you make mistakes and get back to a top-five finish. I kept getting on the bottom on restarts every time, but it came back me at the end. We were able to start on the top those last three and that’s really what got us in the top-five.”
Matt DiBenedetto earned his first career top-10 finish with a sixth-place finish in his No. 83 BK Racing Toyota.
“I’m sorry I’m so speechless – just I’m so thankful to everybody on this team, everybody at BK Racing, Cosmo Motors in Hickory, North Carolina – they’re local to me, he’s my best friend, sell some awesome cars, please check them out – everyone at BK Racing, Dustless Blasting,” DiBenedetto said. “These guys, man – that’s unbelievable for a team like to us to be growing this much and for us to get a sixth-place run – I’m sorry I’m so emotional, it’s just this is like a win for us. I am so excited. I see my family back here – my wife, Taylor, my brother is in town from the military and I’m so glad he got to experience this. This is just – this is incredible. I’m so blessed to be here.”
Kevin Harvick led 13 laps on his way to a seventh-place finish in his No. 4 SHR Chevrolet.
“Yeah, it was definitely the biggest challenge for us…We had the speed but it seemed like every restart we were just struggling to make ground on the restart and by the time you get to two or three spots back, you battle back to where you were and then the caution would come out again,” Harvick said. “But there’s nothing you can do about that. We raced hard all day and we’ll go to the next one.”
Clint Bowyer earned his first top-10 finish of the season with an eighth-place finish in his No. 15 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet. Ryan Newman finished ninth in his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Joey Logano led four laps on his way to rounding out the top-10 in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
“We fought hard and we got all the way back, and then the car just shut off there at the end for some reason,” Logano said. “We’ve got to figure that out a little bit, but I just hate it because I feel like we’ve got a car that’s capable of winning this thing and every time we come here in the spring it’s the same story. We had a fast car and we just blow it somehow.”
Aric Almirola, who finished 34th after a late-race wreck, was called to the NASCAR hauler for “not following proper race protocol” when he refused to get out of his car.
The race lasted three hours, 15 minutes and 52 seconds at an average speed of 81.637 mph. There were 16 lead changes among seven different drivers and 15 cautions for 102 laps.
Kevin Harvick leaves Bristol as the points leader.C1608_UNOFFRES