TALLADEGA, Ala. — Carl Edwards finished 11th in Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, and he couldn’t have been happier.
Unlike so many others in the Chase, Edwards’ car finished the race in once piece. He stayed out of trouble, and in the process stretched his lead in the standings to 14 points.
“This race is insane,” he said. “We laid back. We thought we’d do the best by staying out of the wrecks. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so excited about 11th place. We came in here with a small points lead and we’re leaving with a bigger one. I can’t believe what a relief it is.
“It’s not a win, but it’s a big battle in the war.”
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin all were involved in accidents. All now trail by at least 26 points. Johnson, the five-time defending champion, is 50 points behind, which makes his chances for a sixth title remote, at best.
“We have to keep fighting,” Johnson said. “I want to finish as high as I can in the points. If it isn’t the championship, I want to finish as high as I can.”
Edwards is ahead of his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth. Brad Keselowski is third in the rankings, while Tony Stewart is fourth. Harvick dropped three spots to fifth in the standings.
GORDON UPSET: Jeff Gordon thought he had a good plan to get to the front in the two-lap sprint at the end of Sunday’s race when he talked to Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne on the radio.
When the green flag waved, however, Bayne moved over to push Greg Biffle, dropping Gordon to a 27th-place finish.
After the race, Bayne apologized to Gordon, telling him he was told not to help anyone not driving a Ford. Other drivers confirmed during the weekend that Ford had company orders to avoid drivers in Chevrolets, Dodges and Toyotas.
“If somebody is going to (mess with) you, you’d like them to say it to your face, you know? We talked on the radio a good bit and agreed that he was going to push me,” Gordon said. “Trevor came over to me (after the race) and said, ‘Hey it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me. That’s what I’m being told to do.’ I just think it could have been handled better.”
NO PUSHING ALLOWED: NASCAR told drivers it won’t allow one car to push another in an effort to save gas during caution periods.
One car generally ran without the engine turned on while getting pushed by a teammate. If a car coasted for two laps, it would save enough gas to allow it to run one extra lap at full speed. Austin Dillon pushed Harvick at Kansas Speedway earlier this month, and that forced NASCAR to outlaw the move.
NASCAR also told drivers they had to maintain the pace car speed during a caution. Drivers have tried to save gas by speeding up, turning the engine off, then coasting during a caution.