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Edwards ends drought, tastes victory in Phoenix

The SportsXchange

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, snapped a 70-race winless streak on Sunday when he took the checkered flag in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at a Phoenix International Raceway.

"We're back," Edwards said in Victory Lane. "This is going to be good."

An elated Edwards took the opportunity to give a brief inspirational speech, of sorts.

"Whatever it is you are doing out there, don't lose hope," he said. "You just keep digging and things can work out. This is awesome -- one of the coolest wins of my life."

Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet came out ahead of Denny Hamlin in a tight battle with the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for second on the final lap.

"Very exciting finish there," Johnson said. "To come across the line like that with Denny was exciting."

Brad Keselowski finished fourth in the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford and Dale Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet rounded out the top-five.

Mark Martin started on the pole in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota and led the way until he hit pit road while several cars opted to stay out during a caution on lap 48. After staying out, Juan Montoya in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet and Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford restarted in the top-two spots.

Biffle moved into the lead on lap 57. Martin headed down pit road again for an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel a few laps later.

Montoya retook the lead from Biffle just before the yellow flag waved again on lap 65. He, along with Biffle and the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., stayed out again to restart the race in the top-three spots.

Again, when the race went back to green, Biffle took the lead from Montoya.

Martin got back up front when the fourth caution of the race came out on lap 99. He stayed out while everyone else pitted. Edwards got off pit road first to restart second, but Keselowski took the position from him right after the restart.

Keselowski improved his position by taking the lead from Martin on lap 127. Keselowski held the lead until the yellow flag waved again on lap 141.

Everyone made pit stops, and Keselowski opted to take four new tires while several other drivers took only two and got off pit road ahead of him.

Edwards regained the lead from the two-tire strategy, while Johnson claimed second and Earnhardt third. The three drivers held their positions until the next caution, the sixth of the race on lap 196.

"Racing-wise, it was tough to pass all day long," Johnson said. "Track position, and strategy on pit road really seemed to be the big deal. We went four early, and it cost us a lot of track position.

"We never made that mistake the rest of the day, and stayed up front," Johnson said.

Earnhardt then got off pit road first to assume the lead, with Edwards in second. But Edwards quickly lost his spot when he was passed by both Johnson and the No. 20 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Matt Kenseth.

Edwards made his way back to the front when he got off pit road first during the seventh caution of the race on lap 237. He kept the lead the rest of the way.

"(Crew chief) Jimmy Fennig is the man," Edwards said. "This pit crew is unbelievable. They won this race for us today."

Earnhardt restarted the race second after that caution, but lost the spot to Johnson on the restart. A few laps later, Keselowski also passed Earnhardt to take third.

The eighth caution of the race, which came out with three laps to go, sent the race into overtime, or a green-white-checker-finish, leaving several cars having to worry about fuel.

When the race restarted for two-lap sprint to the finish, the front-runners had enough fuel to get to the checkered flag.

Edwards pulled away on the final lap, as Johnson and Hamlin battled side-by-side for second.

"I didn't have much all day. (Crew chief) Darian (Grubb) and the pit crew carried us," Hamlin said. "We overachieved today, and that's what you have to do when you don't have a good car."

Finishing sixth through 10th were Clint Bowyer in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, Kenseth, Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

NOTES: Edwards' 70-race winless streak tied his longest career-winless streak, which was also snapped at Phoenix in 2010. ... The win at Phoenix was the 20th-career win for Edwards. ... Edwards is the only repeat winner in the last nine races at Phoenix. ... Prior to the Phoenix race, Edwards hadn't led in a Sprint Cup race since August 2012 at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway. ... Hamlin's crew chief, Darian Grubb, has top-five finishes in all four races so far on Phoenix's new track configuration.
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