Carl Edwards knew he had to get everything he could on a restart with two laps left in Saturday's O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch, who finished second to Edwards, was convinced the race winner got too much.
Nevertheless, after a green-white-checkered-flag finish, it was Edwards who celebrated his third win of the season and the 28th of his career, after thwarting Busch's attempt to win his record sixth straight NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the 1.5-mile track.
Edwards, however, couldn't prevent third-place finisher Brad Keselowski from clinching the Nationwide drivers championship, the first NASCAR title for team owner Roger Penske. With two races left, Keselowski leads second-place Edwards by an insurmountable 465 points.
Edwards held the lead when caution flew for the fifth time on Lap 198 of a scheduled 200, when smoke billowed from Clint Bowyer's Chevrolet as it sped through the tri-oval. That gave Busch, who led a race-high 107 laps, a final chance to battle Edwards for the lead, but the fight failed to materialize.
Why? Busch contended Edwards hit the gas before the restart zone delineated by red stripes on the outer walls.
“Carl Edwards jumped the restart by about three lengths before the double red marks,” Busch said after the race. “Does it freakin' matter? The race is over. The guy's in Victory Lane. It doesn't matter.”
Edwards was unapologetic.
“I had to do everything I could,” Edwards said. “Kyle and those guys have a spectacular car, and he does a really good job on restarts. So I just got the best restart I could, and it ended up winning us the race. He's tough. He raced me really well on the one before that (Lap 191), but I knew if I gave him an inch, he'd beat us.”
Understandably, Keselowski was elated at clinching the championship.
“I'm so very fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity with (crew chief) Paul Wolfe and Roger and everybody back at the shop,” Keselowski said. “The guys that are there miss their kids' Little League games working hard on my car. We almost had a win here today. I wanted to win this one, too, but it didn't work out.”
Edwards made sure of that. He passed Busch on lap 155 and held the top spot until Parker Kligerman spun off Turn 2 on lap 185 to cause the fourth caution of the race. Edwards retained the lead after a wild restart on lap 191 and pulled away from Busch before a caution on lap 198 slowed the field and sent the race to overtime.
Joey Logano finished fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr. Danica Patrick finished 22nd, three laps down.