Carl Edwards did not let a minor thing such as a pit-road speeding penalty hamper his bid for his fifth Nationwide Series win at Nashville. Edwards only took 37 laps after the penalty to get back to the front and led 125 out of 225 laps for the victory at the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway Saturday night (July 23). The victory was Edwards’s fifth win of 2011.
Following his victory, Edwards was very pleased with his run, but angry with himself over his pit-road gaffe.
“I can’t believe I was leading and I sped on pit road,” Edwards said. “That was really, really not smart. But in the end, it made our night more fun. I probably learned more.”
Brad Keselowski won the pole at 155.447 mph and led the first 58 laps with Edwards close in tow. Edwards, who started third, took over the lead when Keselowski was slowed by the lapped cars of Josh Wise and Charles Lewandoski on lap 59.
Edwards led through the first round of green-flag pit stop before the first yellow came out for debris on lap 83. The yellow brought the leaders back onto pit road for another round of stops. According to Edwards, the pace car was moving faster than normal under the yellow. As a result, Edwards didn’t coordinate his speed on pit road properly, resulting in a speeding penalty. Since the penalty was under yellow, Edwards was sent to the end of the lead lap for the restart. However, since there were only 14 cars on the lead lap by lap 86, the penalty did not turn out all that bad.
Elliott Sadler, by virtue of a two tire pit stop, took the lead briefly. However, Keselowski was able to retake the lead shortly after the restart. Meanwhile, Edwards took all of five laps to re-enter the top 10. Keselowski was running great until he lost a cylinder at the halfway point of the race. The reduced power under the hood of the Discount Tire Dodge allowed Austin Dillon to run down the No. 22 and take the lead. The cautions fell just right to allow Keselowski to finish on the lead lap in 12th, but he was out of contention.
However, when Dillon took the lead from Keselowski, Edwards came by in tow. It took only a couple of more laps for Edwards to overtake Dillon to get back out in front.
Nine laps later, the second caution of the race came out when Mikey Kile took a trip through the backstretch grass. Kile was tapped from behind by Brian Scott and turned, but Kile was able to keep the car fairly straight while plowing through the car and hopping over an access road.
Things stayed under green until lap 176 when the final caution came out for debris on the backstretch. During the final round of stops, Dillon took two tires and regained the lead over Edwards. Meanwhile, Sadler broke an axle attempting to leave pit road after a great stop. The team was able to repair Sadler’s No. 2, but he was only able to salvage a 30th-place finish, 32 laps down.
Dillon held onto the top spot, but on the restart, Edwards drove past him for the lead. From there, Edwards built a relatively small yet comfortable lead and held on to claim the victory.
Edwards’s teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. followed past Dillon to take second after the final restart and was able to hold on to the finish. After the race, he talked about Edwards’s fast car in the race. He added that his own Ford had a few minor problems, but that adjustments still may not have been enough to overtake his teammate.
“We were just too loose on that last run,” Stenhouse said. “We were tight in the middle part of the race. I never really got it exactly where I needed it. We were one adjustment away from being really fast, but Carl’s Fastenal Mustang has always been really good here. But, at the end of the day, it was a really good day for Roush Fenway.”
Sam Hornish Jr. finished in sixth, while Drew Herring finished seventh in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18. Reed Sorenson came back from a lap down and battery issues to finish eighth. Trevor Bayne and Kenny Wallace rounded out the top-10.
The average speed was 134.011 mph with three cautions for 16 laps and the margain of victory was 0.647 seconds.
Next weekend, the Nationwide Series races Saturday night in the Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
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