One of the best races in Richmond International Raceway history, and in 2016, ended with a bump-and-run – with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.
Carl Edwards and the No. 19 team stole their second straight win (and backflip) at the Toyota Owners 400 after taking the lead away from teammate Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team on the final corner of the final lap.
“Kyle’s an amazing teammate, and it’s like he got really slow there at the end,” Edwards said in victory lane to FOX of the No. 18, who did indeed appear to be on defense big time, and slowed down visibly. “Something happened that last lap. It was like his rear tires went off or something. He went down into (turn) one and I dove it in and I got to him and I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got something.’ And he went to get down to the bottom and park it in (turns) three and four, and I had already decided to go down there, so I thought, ‘Man, I’m going to give him a little nudge,’” Edwards continued to say. “And we both have got wins, and we’re racing for fun getting these trophies and (it was) just an awesome day.”
The defending champion and second place finisher obviously wasn’t as happy as Cousin Carl after the race. Busch has been infamous for blowing off the media after something bad happens to him on track. However, his answers beat around the bush.
On whether or not he expected the No. 19 to make contact with the No. 18: “Our Banfield Camry was real awesome today,” Busch said. “We had a great race car. My guys made some awesome adjustments to it. It was really good for us to have an opportunity to run and race for the win like that.”
On if the contact was excusable considering both drivers have wins already: “My guys give me great race cars each and every week, we continue to have fast Camry’s. We’ll be continuing to run up front and race for wins.”
The questions kept coming from reporters for another minute or so, with the same answers. As you can tell, Busch wasn’t pleased, despite his non-forthcoming answers.
However, most fans take Edwards’ side and think the move was clean and “quintessential NASCAR,” as CEO Brian France would like to say.
At the end of the day, both drivers do indeed have Chase berths and two wins this season. Edwards ended up leading 151 laps on Sunday and Busch led 78 laps, with teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth leading three laps combined and finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, despite some penalties for both drivers mid-race.
Jimmie Johnson (led 44 laps early) and Kasey Kahne led the Hendrick Motorsports brigade, finishing third and fourth, with Kevin Harvick finishing fifth. Harvick led 63 laps but wasn’t fast on short runs, which was ultimately the No. 4’s downfall.
Joey Logano overcame being a lap down by lap 100 to finish eighth. Martin Truex Jr. finished ninth, and Kurt Busch (led 55 laps) fell back from the front row on the final restart and ended up rounding out the top ten.
Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson finished 11th-15th. Some other notables included Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 26th (had a tire problem, derailing a top ten run around lap 300), Ryan Blaney in 28th and Clint Bowyer in 33rd.
Tony Stewart finished in 19th place, but that didn’t dampen his spirits one bit. After getting lapped by Carl Edwards towards the midpoint of the race, he radioed to the No. 14 team, “well, for what it’s worth, I’m having a lot of fun.”
After the race, Smoke’s mood hadn’t changed.
“I love this job,” a smiling Stewart said. “If you asked me how I felt, I would be perfectly content to have them just line us up and start another 400-mile race right now. I can promise you I can outlast a bunch of these guys. I could run 800 more laps and still out-race a bunch of these guys. If anyone thinks we’ve lost something, we haven’t lost (expletive).”
Ah, good ole Smoke. We’re glad to have you back.
Next weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the biggest track on the circuit, Talladega Superspeedway, a 2.66 mile tri-oval in the heart of Alabama.
The GEICO 500 will take place on May 1, with the green flag flying a little after 1:00 p.m.