BRISTOL, Tenn. — Carl Edwards took the lead by staying out under a caution with 78 laps remaining in the Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, and he remained up front the rest of the 500-lap distance.
Edwards claimed his first win of the season and the third of his career at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished second to give Roush Fenway Racing a one-two finish, while Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose finished third and fifth to give Ford four cars among the top-five finishers. Tony Stewart, who started the race 37th, finished fourth.
After a rain delay of more than three hours, Matt Kenseth restarted the race with the lead on lap 125. He lost the lead to Kurt Busch on lap 153 and then received significant rear-end damage after contact from Timmy Hill during a caution on lap 156. After spending time on pit road for repairs, Kenseth restarted the race from the 29th position.
As Kenseth worked his way back up toward the front, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Kasey Kahne spent time in the race lead before Kenseth reassumed the position on a restart following a lap-276 caution.
He then lost the lead to Kyle Larson on a restart following a lap-331 caution and then scrubbed the wall with 92 laps remaining.
Kevin Harvick took the lead by getting off pit road first during a lap-394 caution. Harvick then gave up several positions, pitting for tires during the yellow flag that came out with 78 laps to go.
Edwards then assumed the lead by staying out and ran up front as Harvick worked his way back up through the field. But with 50 laps to go, Harvick’s car began smoking and then made impact with the retaining wall. Right behind him, Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray, both contenders early in the race, wrecked.
Edwards again stayed out, along with Almirola and Stenhouse, to restart the race in the top three. Amirola got by Stenhouse to take second with 33 laps to go, but Stenhouse quickly got back by him.
The race was ended by a caution with two laps remaining when the caution lights came on because of a malfunction. Soon after the caution was displayed, rains returned and the race was called an official event.
Denny Hamlin finished sixth, Jeff Gordon was seventh, Kasey Kahne eighth, Brian Vickers ninth, and Larson 10th.
The race was red-flagged because of rain with 124 of the 500 scheduled laps completed. The start of the race, originally scheduled for a 1:13 p.m. ET start was delayed nearly an hour and 45 minutes for rain.
When the race action was halted, Kenseth was in the lead, McMurray second and Keselowski third after coming off pit road in that order, just before the red flag. The race was already under caution, beginning on lap 118 for tire debris that came off of Jimmie Johnson’s car.
Johnson took only left-side tires during a competition caution on lap 50 and remained on the race track when another caution came out one lap after the race returned to green.
“The tire has air in it and is fine over there, it’s just the tread came off the top of it,” Johnson said. “That slowed me down, lost control. I thought I had a flat. Came to pit road; the tire wasn’t flat, but the tread isn’t on it anymore.”
According to Rick Heinrich of Goodyear, the problem resulted from excessive wear because Johnson had not changed right-side tires during his pit stop, in addition to the large amount of camber.
Hamlin started the race from the pole, with Keselowski alongside in second. As soon as the race started, Hamlin lost several positions, and Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano moved toward the front, giving Penske the top two positions in the running order.
Johnson took the lead by getting off pit road after a two-tire change during the competition caution, with Logano in second and Kenseth in third. After the second caution soon after, Kenseth took the lead, as Johnson slowed for his tire issue and Logano dropped back because of a power steering issue.
“There’s so much load here, and the car is pressing so hard down on the race track that it makes it so hard to steer,” Logano said. “It feels like it’s working against you. I was already huffing and puffing pretty hard, trying to get the thing to turn.”
By lap 114, McMurray had moved up to second behind Kenseth while Logano fell off the lead lap. Four laps later, the yellow flag waved for Johnson’s tire issue, and then another six laps later, the red flag was displayed.
NOTES: Carl Edwards’ win was the sixth win for crew chief Jimmy Fennig…. While the win was Edwards’ third at Bristol, it was his first in the March race…. Edwards claimed his 22nd career victory… Denny Hamlin’s pole-winning lap was a track qualifying record.