Chasing the Chase: Carl Edwards Removes Himself from Trouble
by Phil Allaway
Going into Phoenix, the points are very tight. Somewhat artificially so, but tight. Jimmie Johnson chose to pit during the final caution, thinking that the race would have gone back to green. Had that happened, Johnson would have been sitting pretty. Instead, he dropped out of the top 10 due to his stop and finished 11th. That put him into a tie with two other drivers, both of whom likely had different ideas on how Sunday's race went. Joey Logano led 178 laps early, but fell back through the field. It was only on the final run of the night that he was able to get back to second. Kyle Busch, meanwhile dealt with an ill-handling car and a hole in the nose only to charge back late and finish fifth. Johnson is locked into Homestead by virtue of his win at Martinsville.
Matt Kenseth is one point behind Johnson, Logano and Kyle Busch after starting and finishing seventh on Sunday. But due to teammate Carl Edwards' win, he is currently on the outside of the championship race looking in. Just one point behind Kenseth is Denny Hamlin, who finished ninth on Sunday. Kevin Harvick is now 18 points back in sixth after finishing sixth; however, Harvick is onto his best track in Phoenix.
Carl Edwards entered Texas eighth in points, but his victory locks him into the final round. The standings are close enough that winning would have likely been the only way he could have gotten in. Without the win, Edwards would still be 25 points out in seventh and would have likely needed a victory in Phoenix to advance. Kurt Busch had another unsatisfactory finish back in 20th and is currently eighth, bringing up the rear in the Chase.
Outside of the Round of 8, Martin Truex, Jr. leads the "Best of the Rest" after finishing third on Sunday. He is 31 points ahead of Brad Keselowski, who uncharacteristically struggled on Sunday on his way to a 14th-place finish. Keselowski had dominated the race at Texas last fall only to lose to Johnson in the closing laps.
Chase Elliott's fourth-place run at Texas moved him up a place to 11th in points, while Kyle Larson is 12th. Austin Dillon's wreck in the race, a tangle with Harvick put him down to 13th in the standings, but with a healthy cushion over Tony Stewart. Jamie McMurray is one point behind Stewart in 15th and Chris Buescher rounds out the former Chasers in 16th.
Chase Point Standings: t-1) Jimmie Johnson 4074, t-1) Joey Logano 4074, t-1) Kyle Busch 4074, 4) Matt Kenseth -1, 5) Denny Hamlin -2, 6) Kevin Harvick -18, 7) Carl Edwards -25, 8) Kurt Busch -34.
Best of the Rest: 9) Martin Truex, Jr. 2265, 10) Brad Keselowski -31, 11) Chase Elliott -42, 12) Kyle Larson -56, 13) Austin Dillon -73, 14) Tony Stewart -99, 15) Jamie McMurray -100, 16) Chris Buescher -122, 17) Kasey Kahne -1399, 18) Ryan Newman -1415, 19) AJ Allmendinger -1492, 20) Ryan Blaney -1501, 21) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. -1523, 22) Trevor Bayne -1538, 23) Danica Patrick -1611.
Regular Point Standings: 1) Kevin Harvick 1083, 2) Brad Keselowski -27, 3) Joey Logano -32, 4) Kyle Busch -53, 5) Denny Hamlin -66, 6) Kurt Busch -92, 7) Martin Truex, Jr. -98, 8) Carl Edwards -108, 9) Jimmie Johnson -124, 10) Matt Kenseth -141, 11) Chase Elliott -179, 12) Austin Dillon -212, 13) Kasey Kahne -217, 14) Kyle Larson -231, 15) Ryan Newman -233, 16) Jamie McMurray -242, 17) AJ Allmendinger -310, 18) Ryan Blaney -319, 19) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. -340, 20) Trevor Bayne -355.
Outside the top 16, but in the Chase: 25) Tony Stewart -486, 27) Chris Buescher -568.
Race Winners: Denny Hamlin (Daytona-1, Watkins Glen, Richmond-2), Jimmie Johnson (Atlanta, Auto Club, Charlotte-2, Martinsville-2), Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas, Talladega-1, Daytona-2, Kentucky), Kevin Harvick (Phoenix, Bristol-2, Loudon-2, Kansas-2), Kyle Busch (Martinsville-1, Texas-2, Kansas-1, Indianapolis), Carl Edwards (Bristol-1, Richmond-1, Texas-2), Matt Kenseth (Dover-1, Loudon-1), Martin Truex, Jr. (Charlotte-1, Darlington, Chicagoland, Dover-2), Kurt Busch (Pocono-1), Joey Logano (Michigan-1, Talladega-2), Tony Stewart (Sonoma), Chris Buescher (Pocono-2), Kyle Larson (Michigan-2).
Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com. He can be reached via e-mail at ashl...@mail.com.~~~~~~~~~~
Letter of the Race:
Sunday's AAA Texas 500 was brought to you by the Letter "W," for "Waiting."
required to get the track surface dry at Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday's race was just plain unacceptable. It bites. It rained for 25 minutes but the oval required over five hours to dry. Inpatient fans, or those who had long drives home in order to work today were unable to wait out the delays. - Phil Allaway
Quotes to Remember: AAA Texas 500
compiled by Phil Allaway
"This is really a good test for us. We had the adversity last week. We knew what we had to do. To be able to actually go do it is great. That was really nice. Now we know we can do it. We've been through it. We just have to go to Homestead and do it again. Like I said then, I'll say it again, anything short of a championship will be a disappointment. We have a championship‑caliber team, parts, crew, pit crew. We need to be able to go do it." - Carl Edwards, race winner
"We had such a fast car, especially in the beginning of the race. Took off and we drove off to a six‑ or seven‑second lead. Was feeling pretty good about it. As the track kind of changed, we lost our handle a little bit. Lost the lead. Kind of went all the way back to fifth. The team did a very good job on executing when we needed to. Just, you know, didn't have enough laps. It seemed like the momentum swung the other way about three or four laps to go before the caution came out when I started catching the No. 19 pretty rapidly. Unfortunately, it just started raining. That was the end of the race, so... you know, it is what it is. We're going to be close. There's a lot of cars that are going to be close going into Phoenix. It's going to be entertaining. It's going to be probably the closest Phoenix race we've ever seen as far as points. It's going to be a fun one, for sure." - Joey Logano, finished second
"Well, it was obvious earlier today we didn't know if it was going to rain or if it wasn't. That kind of threw a loop into things. The track was quite a bit different today for probably the first 20, 25 laps. That first run was really hard on tires. A lot of guys were struggling at the competition caution. Honestly, aside from that, the track was real similar to practice, I felt like. We struggled with the same issues. Seemed like everybody was having similar issues as practice, just being loose. Interesting that the tires were so much different the last time around. But, all in all, it was a good day for us. We battled hard. We fought. Had a great racecar at times. Looked like we were in position to have a shot at winning. Then, the last pit stop, we had a little bit of an issue. Then, inside restarts after that are just really tough. The leader on the outside has a big advantage. I guess, all in all, happy with third, but wish we could have won tonight." - Martin Truex, Jr., finished third
"Our Busch Beer Chevy was off. We were tight, we were loose, and we were kind of all over the place. We could take off OK, but we would fall way off at the end of a run. I just want to apologize to the No. 3 (Austin Dillon). He kind of came up there and he slid in front of me and got loose, and when he checked up I hit him again. That was not anything I wanted to see. All in all, everybody battled and did all they could, and we just didn’t have a fast enough car." - Kevin Harvick, finished sixth