By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
For the fourth race in a row, and the fifth time in nine races this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has visited victory lane. This time, it was Carl Edwards who won the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway in a last lap, final corner, bump and run on teammate Kyle Busch. Edwards also won last weekend’s Food City 500 at Bristol.
Fellow JGR drivers Denny Hamlin, who won the season opening Daytona 500, and Matt Kenseth, the only JGR driver currently winless this season, finished in sixth and seventh respectively. The four JGR drivers combined to lead 230 laps of the 400 lap race. Edwards dominated the lead as he controlled the lead for a race-high 151 circuits. Throughout the race, the JGR teams had some of the fastest pit stops, helping there drivers either win the race off of pit road, or gain positions on pit road.
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry, whose team is in a technical alliance with JGR, also finished in the top 10 in the ninth position. Toyota, and JGR with it’s alliance swept half of the Top 10 in the race at Richmond.
Edwards’ win moves him up to the top of the Cup Series points standings. JGR currently has three drivers, Edwards, Busch, and Hamlin, locked into the 2016 Chase. Despite his up-and-down luck this season, Kenseth now sits just inside the 16th place cut-off in 15th. Furniture Row Racing’s Truex is 10th in the standings after today’s race.
After the race Busch spoke to the media about his second place finish.
“Our Banfield Camry was really awesome today. We had some real good speed. Adam and the guys made some great adjustments. The second to last run we were fading a little bit. The adjustments Adam made were certainly helping a lot, got us to the position that we needed to be in. And, of course the pit stop at the end, my guys ripped off an awesome one there and got us the lead when it mattered most. It was real important for us and it gave us the opportunity to lead that final segment for as long as we did. I’m just real proud of the guys, giving it everything we had.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs also spoke to the media, saying this about winning at Richmond.
“I love coming here. I think our whole team does. When you ask fans to pick their favorite track, Richmond is right at the top. It was a big weekend for Toyota, huge deal for us. They are such a great partner. A big day for us, my fear is always at the end when you have cars as good as we have and drivers as good as we have, you end up with two of your teammates battling there. You wish it wouldn’t happen, Carl would say that too.”
Edwards said this to the media after the race about his win and winning back to back.
“Coach said it, it is a tough thing. I think the double-edge sword of having such great teammates is sometimes you have to race like that. It is just such a great day overall though. Dave did a great job, our cars were really fast. With about 20 to go, I was doing everything I could, literally everything I got, and I could not catch Kyle. I could not get there. Then with about one to go, Dave said something that was extremely motivating. Awesome win for us, like Coach said, I wish it was anybody but my teammate that we had to race like that with. But, big picture to me, we both have some wins, and we are both in the Chase.”
JGR and its drivers look to continue to ride the momentum of the past four weeks as the Series visits the unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway. And with JGR’s recent domination, some are speculating that they may be the new team on top of the pedestal, ahead of Hendrick Motorsports.
Image: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images