Mother Nature forced NASCAR to call last year’s Chase race at Phoenix early – seemingly ending Carl Edwards championship hopes. Flash forward almost one full year later to the rain-plagued Chase race at Texas Motor Speedway, and the outcome is much different for the Columbia, MO native.
NASCAR headed to the Lone Star State for the 12th annual AAA Texas 500 – the second race in the third round of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The event was originally scheduled to begin around 2:00 p.m. ET, but Mother Nature had other plans. Shortly after the national anthem was sung, precipitation began to fall, sending the race into a rain delay.
After over five hours of waiting for the rain to stop and battling to get the track dry, the drivers climbed aboard their machines and got ready to do battle on the 1.5-mile track. The green flag finally flew, but it wasn’t a typical start to the race. As efforts to dry the track continued, NASCAR made the decision to start the race under caution flag conditions so that the field could continue to help dry the racing surface.
Once the race finally got going under full green flag conditions, the battle began amongst the Chasers to see which of them could capture the victory and become locked into the final round of the Chase in Miami. Joey Logano quickly ran out with the race lead at the start of the event, and ended up keeping his No. 22 AAA Ford up front for a whopping 178 laps. But as the race began to get into it’s latter stages, the Middletown, CT native lost the lead to Martin Truex Jr. and was never able to get back out front.
Truex proved to have a strong car once he was finally able to get by Logano, but wasn’t the only one with a strong car up their sleeve. Fellow Toyota racing teammate, Edwards, followed Truex out to the front and never let the No. 78 out of his sights. Edwards appeared to be stronger, but Truex was able to hold him off – that is until a pit stop sequence for a caution flag on Lap 254. The No. 19 Sports Clip pit crew had a lightning fast pit stop, getting Edwards out into the race lead in front of Truex.
With the threat of raining growing, Edwards knew it was now up to him to stay out front. Throughout a couple restarts, the No. 19 Stanley Tools Toyota was able to surge out to the race lead – and once the rains began to fall, Edwards had done his job maintaining the lead.
Shortly after, with the threat of rain sticking around and the knowledge that it would take them at least two hours to dry the track once the rain stopped, NASCAR called the race. Edwards was declared the winner, and nearly one year after losing his championship hopes because of Mother Nature – he rejoiced in her intervention.
“This is huge – I don’t think it has sunk in yet. This is cool. This team has really worked hard all year,” said Edwards after the race on NBCSN. “This is really cool, that’s all we said we needed was a shot. Now we are going to go to Homestead, we are going to do what we have to do. This was a great test, we came here, knew what we had to do and performed the way we needed to. I really believe we can do that at Homestead.”
Edwards and last week’s winner at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson, are now both locked into the championship race at Homestead-Miami with a shot at the 2016 title. At the conclusion of next week’s race at Phoenix, two more drivers will join them – and that battle is going to be a nail-biter.
Heading into Phoenix – Logano and Kyle Busch are tied for third, one point ahead of the cutoff. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin are fifth and sixth, Kenseth one point behind and Hamlin two. Kevin Harvick is in seventh, 18 points behind the 4th place cutoff, but is banking on winning at Phoenix where he is no doubt the favorite. Kurt Busch is eighth, 32 points behind the cutoff, and will head into next weekend’s race in a hail-mary position, all-but needing a victory to advance to Homestead.
The Can-Am 500 is set to get the green flag at around 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. There are only two more races left in the 2016 season, and with the way things are shaping up, they have the potential to be two of the most exciting races of the season.