Edwards Holds Off Kenseth In Caution-Plagued Bristol Race

Saturday, March 24th 2007, 8:59 pm
By: News On 6

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) Carl Edwards held off hard-charging teammate Matt Kenseth over the final dozen laps to win the Busch Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday.

It was a typical crash-filled Bristol race, with 12 cautions for 103 laps and one red-flag stoppage. NASCAR also confused things with a miscue on pit road that confused most of the field and gave Edwards, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman a second chance.

Edwards used that free pit stop to get fresh tires and drive away to his first win of the season. Kenseth never got close enough to move him, and Edwards beat him to the line by 0.260 seconds.

"I just can't thank Matt Kenseth enough for racing me that clean," Edwards said. "He's so great here and it meant the world to beat him."

Kenseth said he tried to get past Edwards earlier, but couldn't, and wouldn't force the issue.

"This place is tough. It's kind of a give and take race track and sometimes I struggle when to give and when to take," he said. "I got under Carl two or three times and lifted his left rear tire, he chopped me pretty good, so I had to get it out of the gas. I could have stayed in and got him turned around, but I got out of it."

A caution came out with 117 laps to go and NASCAR told its officials to open pit road. But pit road was closed when Busch and Edwards -- the leaders -- passed the entrance. They didn't stop.

But pit road opened seconds later, and the rest of the field did stop.

NASCAR blamed that on a delay in changing the lights on pit road and quickly reviewed it. Officials then allowed Busch, Edwards and Newman to pit and line up where they were originally running when the caution came out.

"It was a mistake that NASCAR made in this case," president Mike Helton said. "And there's no absolute fix for that. So we felt like the most fair thing to do was to simply say, `Pit road is open. You can pit if you want to. You don't have to.' "There's no absolute clean fix, but we felt like that was the
most fair fix."

Not everyone agreed.

"I don't have any idea what happened," Kenseth said. "The first time by it was closed. NASCAR said to open it over the scanner, but we're still supposed to pay attention to the light. The light was clearly, clearly red. No arguing that. It was closed. It was red.

"I don't understand why they got their spots back."

Had NASCAR not allowed the cars to pit without repercussions, everyone who did pit likely would have passed them soon after the restart. And had the three drivers pitted without NASCAR's blessing, all would have been shuffled to the tail end of the lead lap.

"They could have just as easily had told us we're just going to have to deal with it," Edwards said. "I appreciate NASCAR helping us out there."

Edwards, the Busch Series points leader, led 147 laps en route to the win.

Busch led 89 and seemed to have the best car, but was spun out twice -- once while leading. The second spin came with 77 laps to go in the race when he was running second and Edwards was third.

As the leaders closed in on the lapped traffic, they had little room to race and Edwards ran into the back of Busch. It dropped Busch back to 12th and he had to fight his way back to third.

He was livid after, with most of his rage directed at Mike Wallace.

"I'm not upset at Carl one bit. Lapped cars don't give way to the leaders when they're already a lap down and going their second lap down and (Wallace) was pathetic today," Busch fumed. "Absolutely, outrageously stupid. He was mad at us because NASCAR gave us a break because they didn't open up pit road right and when I got up to the front there he was trying to knock in my fender and ride along side me.

"When I tried letting him go, he wouldn't go. He was just being a complete moron."

Newman was fourth, followed by Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick as Nextel Cup drivers took the top eight spots.