A year after his shot at the title came up five points short because of a rain-shortened race, Edwards got the victory he desperately needed this season by winning at Texas in a race cut by 41 laps because of rain after the start was delayed nearly six hours Sunday.
“This is huge. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. That’s all we said was needed, just a shot,” Edwards said. “Now we’re going to go to Homestead, we’re going to do what we need to do. This was a great test. We came here and did what we needed to do, we performed, and I really believe we can do that at Homestead.”
Edwards entered the second-to-last race before the Nov. 20 season finale eighth in points among the drivers still eligible for the championship.
With his fourth career win at Texas, Edwards joined points leader Jimmie Johnson as drivers locked into the championship-contending spots in Homestead. Edwards is seventh in points, but like Johnson advanced by winning.
Joey Logano finished second at Texas and is second in season points, with Kyle Busch third. Matt Kenseth is fourth, ahead of Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, with Kurt Busch eighth. If one of those six drivers doesn’t win at Phoenix, the final two championship spots would be determined by points.
Last year’s race at Phoenix was delayed nearly seven hours as a series of storms passed through the area, and then once it started under the lights was called after 218 laps. Edwards finished fifth, leaving him five points out of the final spot for the Chase finale.
“This rain was a lot more welcome than that rain,” Edward said. “That was frustrating.”
Edwards’ three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates — Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Kenseth — are among the six other drivers still in contention this season, and clearly not all of them can advance.
Light rain had already been falling at Texas, and plenty more was on the radar around the track, when the caution came out with 45 laps remaining of the originally scheduled 334-lap race.
All the cars were brought to pit road four laps later, and it was only a few more minutes before NASCARdeclared the race over and official after 293 laps. It could have taken two hours or more to dry to track.
Edwards had taken the lead on lap 258 after beating Martin Truex Jr. off pit road, and led the rest of the way.
“The last pit stop, we had a little bit of an issue,” Truex said, without elaborating. “I guess all in all, happy with third.”
It was Edwards’ first win at Texas in eight years. He swept the two Cup races at the track in 2008, the season he had nine wins overall and finished second in season points. Three years later, Edwards was the season runner-up again even though he matched Tony Stewart for the most points. Stewart won the championship on a tiebreaker (his five wins to Edwards’ one).
Logano led a race-high 178 laps. Truex finished third and Chase Elliott fourth.
“When you’re that close to winning and you lead the most laps, second stings,” Logano said. “But ultimately we did gain some points. We’re in right now. We were out going into this race.”
Harvick got his track-record eighth win at Phoenix in March, and has won six of the last eight races there.
“We’ve done it I don’t know how many times,” Harvick said. “We’ll just go there and do what we always do and race as hard as we can.”
Some other things from Texas:
DRIVE FOR FIVE SHORT: Johnson had won the previous four fall races at Texas, but finished 11th after starting 19th.
TRAILING AFTER GREEN: Polesitter Austin Dillon led only the race’s first six laps, but didn’t lead a green-flag lap. He was passed by Logano for the lead on lap 7, the first lap after the green flag.
BIG BOBBLEHEAD: The first 30,000 fans were given Tony Stewart bobbleheads commemorating the retiring Sprint Cup driver’s final race at Texas. During driver introductions, track president Eddie Gossage presented Stewart with his own bobblehead — a life-sized replica with an oversized head.
HELD OUT: Matt DiBenedetto wasn’t allowed to drive because of NASCAR’s concussion protocol. He was involved in a hard crash in the Xfinity Series race Saturday, and wasn’t cleared by doctors to drive in the Cup race even though he said he felt “perfect” on Sunday.
LOUD POP: A tire specialist for Richard Childress Racing was treated and released from the infield care center after a tire just taken off Paul Menard’s car popped while being checked behind the wall.
UP NEXT: An elimination race Sunday at Phoenix. Assuming Harvick wins again, the playoff picture is realistically five drivers racing for the final slot in the finale.