Carl Edwards started on the pole, was set back by a pit road penalty, then powered his way back to the front before holding off a late charge by Kyle Busch to win the Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch started the race in the third postion, took the lead for the first of six times on lap 44, but didn’t have a car fast enough at the beginning of the run to put himself in contention to win at the end of the run. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran amongst the leaders for most of the evening, finally crossing the line in the third position. Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne ended the race in the fourth and fifth postion.
Edwards led the race five times for a race high 101 laps. The victory is Edwards’ 35th in 236 career Nationwide races. It is the sixth race that he has won in the series in 2011. This was the second time in seven career races at Atlanta that Edwards has taken home the trophy. Ricky Stenhouse leaves Atlanta with the series points lead, 13 ahead of Elliott Sadler.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. broke down his night for the assembled media.
“The race itself was fun. This race track is a lot of fun. It’s old and it wears the tires out and it’s rough. That’s my kind of race track. I like to get up on the wheel and drive it hard and it worked out for us tonight. Our Blackwell Angus Beef and Cargo Mustang really ran well. We struggled in the pits and got behind and had to make some time up, but once we did we were okay. We caught a good break and caught the right front tire, it shredded but it didn’t blow, so we caught that. If we would have stayed out one more lap it probably would have blown the right front and there at the end it was just fun racing with Kyle and Kevin. I wish we could have had a little more for Carl, but it was a good weekend for Roush Fenway. The last few laps there, the last run, I think we had a tire coming loose, so I kind of had to take it a little easy and made sure we finished and it was a good points night for us.”
Busch didn’t have anything left for Edwards when the checkered flag flew.
“No, that is it. We were all kind of stuck on the bottom tonight. Wish we could have spread out and moved around and never did. Now can’t say enough about these guys from Joe Gibbs Racing, all the guys here on this Z-Line Designs furniture Toyota Camry. Good car, just not good enough. We knew that it would be a race against the Ford. They got great under the hoods. Just hated that we didn’t have enough under the hood to run with them a little bit better, but even in the long haul we got real loose an those guys seem to be better. We would equal out. Then I would be better. Then, he would be better. It was all about how you could get to the bottom of the race track and how you could run the bottom. Overall, thank Z-Line, NOS Energy Drink, Pizza Ranch, Toyota, everybody. Thanks again.’
Trevor Bayne had his night cut short in the sixth and final caution of the night when he got together with Reed Sorenson after Justin Allgaier bumped the left rear of Sorenson’s car in turn two. “That’s the best mile and a half car we’ve ever had, I believe. We had a shot to win this thing on a short run. I got a little bit free after 20 to 25 laps and we were at a run that was gonna be 20 laps. It was gonna be perfect. We should have been around fifth and we came out 11th and you just get back there where you shouldn’t be and get around some guys that are racing really hard and end up getting wrecked. That was a hard hit and I hate it for this Ford Mustang because I think it could have had confetti on it tonight, but I’m really proud of what my guys have done. Chad Norris and everybody for giving me a great car, so we’ll just take it to them at Richmond I guess.”
Edwards relished his victory during the post race press conference. “The car was spectacular from the first lap on the race track the car was great. Mike and Scott and all the guys did a really great job with it. It’s amazing how these cars have progressed over the last year to year and a half. They’re really fast. Trevor was fast. Ricky was fast. Our car was great. It was just a fun race.”
Edwards also did not hold back at all in his praise for Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I love this race track. Whatever it is about this race track that makes it so much fun to drive, we need to figure out if we can engineer that into some other race tracks. This is as good as it gets, so I’m excited for tomorrow. I’m really excited to go run 500 miles here.”
Ricky Stenhouse now leads the points race. Elliott Sadler is still in second position, but now 13 points behind. Reed Sorenson is third, but he is now 40 points in arrears thanks to his incident on lap 171. Aric Almirola and Justin Allgaier complete the top-5.
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