By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor
Showing speed throughout the day, Carl Edwards looked to be primed to capture his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on Sunday, but it was not to be for Edwards and the No. 19 team after a crash on a restart with 10 laps to go brought their championship hopes to a screeching halt.
Falling short of the championship in 2008 and 2011, Edwards was one of the fastest cars throughout the race weekend and had the confidence to try and redeem himself in the season finale.
Edwards started the day in 10th and moved into the race lead for the first time at lap 32, taking over the lead from polesitter Kevin Harvick. As the race progressed, Edwards would swap the lead with Harvick, Joey Logano, and Kyle Larson, leading eight separate times for 47 total laps. Though Larson established himself as the man to beat for the race win, Edwards established himself as the man to beat for the championship as the sun set and the laps wound down.
Though Edwards lost time on pit road with a slower pit stop with 58 laps to go, he was able to reel in his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch over the next 30 laps to re-take the top spot in the Championship 4. With 24 laps to go, Edwards increased his advantage on Busch as the laps continued to tick away, but everything was reset when a caution came out with 15 laps to go.
The four championship contenders made their way down pit road during the caution for service and Edwards’ crew redeemed themselves from their earlier slow pit stop by getting him out on track ahead of the other three as they were set for a restart with 10 laps remaining in the season finale.
On the ensuing restart, Joey Logano made an aggressive move to try and pass Edwards on the apron of the frontstretch, which forced Edwards to throw the block to try and halt Logano’s advance. As a result of the block, the two cars made contact, sending Edwards’ Toyota spinning head-on into the inside SAFER barrier. From that point on, Edwards’ car spun back across the track as he made contact with a few other cars before making another hard impact with the outside wall.
In a matter of seconds, the hopes of Edwards being able to capture the championship were gone.
“It didn’t work out. This is life. We performed well. We did our best. I just risked too much and Dave told me before this race it’s a pretty big reward and remember risk gets reward and I just had to push it. I couldn’t go to bed tonight and think that I gave him that lane. I’ll watch the rest of the race and I am telling you this team is going to be on fire next year. You watch out. This is going to be awesome,” said Edwards.
Ever the class act, Edwards elected to walk to the infield care center instead of taking the mandatory ambulance ride and stopped by the No. 22 team’s pit box to give them some words of encouragement and to shake their hands even though his hopes of his first championship would have to wait for another season.
“I just wanted to make sure that they knew and they could tell Joey (Logano) – I don’t know if Joey cares or not – I assume he does, but I just wanted to make sure he knew that was just racing in my opinion and that’s hard racing and I wished them luck.”