For Carl Edwards, it was another potential win that slipped through his fingers. Softened only by the solace that he and the rest of the Ford contingent made their presence known.
Edwards finished third in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, a race that was slowed for rain, wrecks and even endured the darkness. It was a career best finish for Edwards and his first top five at the track since 2005. He had been leading on the last lap before Front Row Motorsports teammates David Ragan and David Gilliland drove past him like he was standing still.
“The race in general went really well for us. Practice was great. We got that pole position and I did get that trophy,” Edwards said afterwards.
“I never had a trophy from Talladega. Thought we were going to get another trophy, a really big one, and the rain went away and got the track dried, which I was pretty frustrated about that. I was kind of really hoping for rain.”
The race was red flagged at the lap 125 mark for rain showers. Edwards had just taken the lead by inches, from teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and began to hope the race wouldn’t be able to get back underway. But NASCAR’s new Air Titan, an air blowing machine they created, made it possible for the 2.66-mile facility to be dried and after a rain delay of three hours, 36 minutes, the race was green again.
Edwards remained in contention down to the wire, battling the strong cars of Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. On the green-white-checkered finish he restarted second and surged to the lead down the backstretch thanks to a shove from Ford teammate Aric Almirola. His lead barely lasted as eventual winner Ragan passed him in the same place a lap later.
“I learned a ton, I had a blast, and on the white flag lap I thought we were going to win it until I saw these guys coming and I thought, ‘Who is that,’ and they were coming,” said Edwards of Ragan and Gilliland.
“I blocked as much as I could. David [Ragan] did everything but spin me out down the back straightaway, was all over the back bumper and I could feel from the way he was pushing and moving that if I turned to stay across his hood, they went one way and I went the other, I knew I was going to be on the highlight reel for the wrong reasons.
“These guys got by and we had a one-two-three finish for Ford, which is huge, and I know it’s huge for these guys and Front Row Motorsports. As frustrated as I am about the loss I’m really happy for these guys, and it couldn’t happen to two better guys and a hard working team.”
The finish for Ford wasn’t the only bright spot of the day, as Edwards made known. While he only led five laps, other Blue Oval drivers found themselves near the front. When Edwards took the lead before the rain came, it was due in part because four Fords (Edwards, Stenhouse, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano) teamed together on the outside and drove to the front.
And during the red flag Edwards stated he had a feeling that the race would be restarted and that if it did, there would be a Ford in Victory Lane. His assumption was correct; it just wasn’t the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion. It was enough, however, for Edwards to remain second in the point standings.
“I obviously wanted to win that race very, very badly for a number of reasons, but it truly couldn’t happen to two better guys and from Ford’s perspective, Ford got us all together at that event that [the media] were part of down at the Hall of Fame, and they told us this is One Ford,” said Edwards.
“We want to work together. We want the rest of the field to know that Fords are going to be strong because of their ability to work together and share information and help one another on the racetrack, and I think you saw a lot of that today.
“The reason we were in a position with our 99 team when the rain came out is because all the Fords came out. I think we were one, two, three, four, and at the end of the race were one, two, three, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think there’s a lot of really neat things happening right here.”