Carl Edwards ended a barren run stretching back to March 2011 by winning the season's second NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix.
Edwards beat previous leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the pits in the final stops, then nursed his fuel load to the finish to win for the first time since Las Vegas two years and 70 races ago.
Going into the closing laps, the Roush Fenway Ford had Jimmie Johnson's Hendrick Chevrolet and Brad Keselowski's Penske Ford hunting it down as the entire field tried to save fuel.
A green-white-checkered finish after a puncture for Ken Schrader was a headache Edwards did not need, yet he was able to break clear as Johnson and Keselowski tussled with each other. Their battle became so intense that Denny Hamlin was able to surge down the inside of both, grabbing second for a few moments before Johnson inched ahead as they banged doors on the way to the flag.
Johnson felt Edwards was not correctly following the zone, delineated by red marks on the wall, within which the leader is required to accelerate.
"I felt like Carl didn't follow the restart protocol and was slower than the pace car on his last two restarts, and it gives the leader a huge advantage when that happens," Johnson said. "You're supposed to wait until you get between the two lines and take off, and this was all going on before (the restart zone)."
For his part, Edwards thought it was Johnson who was speeding up as the cars approached the start.
"Usually the guy in second hangs back a little bit, and he pulled up there and I thought, 'Why's he doing that?'" Edwards said. "Yeah, maybe I was slowing down, but I wasn't trying to. I thought he was speeding up. I thought it was pretty genius what he was doing, because it kind of got me off of my game.
"But then, when I went, I think he maybe wasn't looking at me or something, because he waited just a little bit too long to go. But, truthfully, that was not by design. I was not trying to do anything tricky. I thought he was."
Edwards admitted that the end of his winless streak came as a great relief.
"When you're struggling, it seems like time slows down," Edwards said. "You're working harder, you're trying more, you're questioning yourself more. ... (Last year) was one of the longest years of my life, to work that hard and not get the victories.
"I'm very, very happy to be back in the mix here. A victory is huge for so many reasons. Last year we didn't make the Chase. For me to sit home, while everybody was at the Chase stuff in Vegas — that was a little bit of a shock to me. I did not like that at all. So to get a victory helps us be in a better position for the Chase. It just feels good to win."
Hamlin held on to third, having started at the back following a pre-race engine change. His Joe Gibbs Toyota teammate Kyle Busch had the same issue, but could only finish 23rd after an early spin.
Earnhardt faded to fifth behind Keselowski, and ahead of Clint Bowyer, who recovered from a messy pit stop for sixth. Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton completed the top 10, followed by returnee AJ Allmendinger.
Alternative fuel strategies allowed Juan Pablo Montoya and Greg Biffle to squabble over the lead for a spell. They eventually finished 12th and 17th. Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne were also victory contenders before their cars faded, leaving them 13th and 19th.
Polesitter Mark Martin led 75 laps, including the entire first stint, but an additional stop for a loose wheel put him out of sequence and 21st was his final result.
Danica Patrick's race came to a violent end of lap 184, when a puncture sent her into first the wall and then the path of a flat-out David Regan. Both drivers were unhurt.
* Reid Spencer/NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this story.
Results - 316 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford
2. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 1.024s
3. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota + 1.036s
4. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford + 1.305s
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 1.596s
6. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 1.840s
7. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota + 2.267s
8. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2.416s
9. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.422s
10. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 2.472s
11. AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet + 2.638s
12. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 2.787s
13. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 2.930s
14. Casey Mears Germain Chevrolet + 2.934s
15. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 3.261s
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford + 3.405s
17. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 3.430s
18. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 3.526s
19. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 3.723s
20. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 3.982s
21. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 4.045s
22. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 4.083s
23. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota + 4.236s
24. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 1 lap
25. David Reutimann BK Toyota + 1 lap
26. Joey Logano Penske Ford + 1 lap
27. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet + 1 lap
28. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet + 3 laps
29. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 3 laps
30. David Stremme Swan Toyota + 3 laps
31. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota + 5 laps
32. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet + 7 laps
33. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 10 laps
34. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford + 16 laps
35. Jose Wise Front Row Ford + 21 laps
36. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 32 laps
David Gilliland Front Row Ford 237 laps
David Ragan Front Row Ford 186 laps
Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 184 laps
Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 137 laps
Scott Speed Leavine Ford 88 laps
Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 34 laps
Scott Riggs Xxxtreme Ford 19 laps