Carl Edwards climbed from his car, stood on the door and landed a back flip near the finish line. He then hopped up on the wall in front...
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Carl Edwards climbed from his car, stood on the door and landed a back flip near the finish line. He then hopped up on the wall in front of the grandstand, grabbed the checkered flag and waded into the crowd, trading high-fives with fans.
After a miserable week at Daytona, Edwards had plenty to celebrate.
That it came at Phoenix International Raceway only seemed fitting.
Coming through on his promise to dominate after his Daytona disaster, Edwards pulled away on a late restart and snapped a 70-race winless streak on Sunday, the second long drought he’s ended at Phoenix.
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“This win feels as good or better as any win I’ve ever had,” Edwards said.
Edwards had a rough 2012 season, missing the Chase for the championship. His downward spiral continued at Daytona, where he wrecked five cars. On his way out of Florida, Edwards said he was ready to dominate and win at Phoenix.
He did just that, leading the final 78 laps on the 312-lap race around PIR’s odd-shaped oval in the first non-restrictor-plate race with NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car.
Edwards got a good push from defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski on the restart with two laps left and pulled away from there, winning for the first time since Las Vegas in 2011.
After parking his car at the finish line, Edwards landed his first back flip in nearly two years and celebrated with the fans — just like he did at PIR after ending another 70-race winless streak in 2010.
“I’m sure it’s a relief for someone like Carl,” said Denny Hamlin, who finished third and had a long winless streak end at Phoenix last year. “He’s now relevant again, he really is and it’s a good sign for their race team for things to come.”
The big duel came behind Edwards.
Despite struggling with his car most of the day, Hamlin made a bold move on the last lap with a pass on the apron below the dogleg. He popped up alongside Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson and the two drag-raced to the finish, where Johnson edged him by a few inches.
Keselowski, who was outside Johnson during Hamlin’s move, finished fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended up fifth. Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was 17th and Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne was 19th.
Danica Patrick had a rough follow-up to her breakthrough week at the Daytona 500.
Patrick became the first woman to win a pole and lead green-flag laps during NASCAR’s season opener, sending her popularity to a new level.
But she couldn’t stay with the leaders at Phoenix, ending her day with one of the hardest hits of her career. It happened with about 100 laps left, when the right-front tire on Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet went down and slammed her into the wall.
Patrick’s car careened back into David Ragan, flipping her hood over the windshield and shredding the left front fender.
“Whenever those right-fronts go, they always hit hard because you don’t broadside, you hit more straight on,” said Patrick, who finished 39th. “It took a hard hit both sides and I’m fine, so NASCAR is doing a good job at safety.”