(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Carl Edwards Saves Best for Last to Win at Texas

Who’s in the headline – While Carl Edwards will garner most of the headlines for the weekend, it was Mother Nature who took most of the attention. The race was delayed by five-and-a-half hours due to track drying efforts that seemed to make progress at a snail’s pace. Once the race began, the sun had set and a typical intermediate race broke out. Minimal passing after five laps into a run and the team with the best pit stops reaped the benefits. Edwards’ crew was quickest on the final pit stop of the night. He held onto the lead on the restart and raced to the red flag for rain.

What happenedAustin Dillon won the pole and led first five laps of the race, but that was only because the race started under the green and yellow flags. Joey Logano took the lead when real racing began, and he was the dominant car early in the race, leading 178 of the first 188 laps. Martin Truex, Jr. took over the point thanks to a pit strategy call and led 66 of the next 69 laps before Edwards’ pit crew rattled off its ultra fast stop to give him the lead.

Why you should care – Depending on your allegiance, the victory by Edwards can be good or bad. Edwards entered the race 32 points out, and for all intents and purposes needed to win to advance. Now that he has, Joe Gibbs Racing is guaranteed at least one car in the final four. The win also makes the race to get inside the cutoff line extremely tight. Kevin Harvick is well below the line, but he has owned Phoenix International Raceway. If he manages to take the win next weekend, the drivers who are locked out of Homestead-Miami Speedway will be a rather impressive lot.

What your friends are talking about – Rain and how it is handled was a big topic of discussion Sunday. It was refreshing when NASCAR ran 20 laps under caution before starting the race but not counting the laps. Unfortunately,officials couldn’t help themselves, and they eventually started counting the laps. It is ridiculous to count laps under caution to start a race; either the track is fit for racing or it isn’t. Don’t force-feed the fans the drivel that they somehow need to have laps count just because they are using the cars to dry the track.

Speaking of rain, the delay to start the race was obviously frustrating for everyone involved, but the decision to go green is questionable as well. NASCAR has long maintained that it won’t go green unless it thinks it can complete the planned distance. With the rain that ultimately killed the race predicted for some time between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. local time, there was no way the race could be completed with the green waving at 6:55 p.m.

A second driver has been kept out of a Cup race thanks to concussion protocol. Matt DiBenedetto was involved in a wreck during Saturday’s XFINITY Series race. Doctors refused to clear him to race on Sunday, so Jeffrey Earnhardt was put in the No. 83 for the race. DiBenedetto was frustrated when he wasn’t cleared, tweeting that he felt fine. NASCAR continues to focus on safety, and this is the latest example.

HScott Motorsports future is in doubt, but no announcement will come before the end of the season. Michael Annett announced he is going to JR Motorsports to run XFINITY next season with Flying J in tow, while Clint Bowyer moves on to Stewart-Haas Racing to take over the No. 14. Team owner Harry Scott has a charter for the No. 46, so he has the option to run it or lease it next season. The way this plays out will be interesting because the value of a charter may be established again this off season.

Speaking of uncertain plans for 2017, the search for a title sponsor continues. NASCAR has not reached an agreement at this point, and the lack of a decision is impacting business partners. Lionel in particular is working on die cast cars for release at Daytona in 2017. The company has announced the cars will come with a generic NASCAR logo instead of a title sponsor logo because production must commence.

Another interesting development could happen in the coming months: Goodyear’s contract with NASCAR is up at the end of next season. There is no secret that the opinion of this column is that tire manufacturing shouldn’t be rocket science. As much as we appreciate Goodyear and their efforts, it would be nice to see a fresh approach to making the tires that are utilized by the national touring series.

Who is mad Casey Mears is unsure about his future. He’s gone from racing for the top organization in the sport to punching the clock for a back marker week-in and week-out. Mears was putting in another yeoman-like effort in the mid-20s when he was spun as an aftermath of the Harvick/Dillon dust up. When his car hit the infield, the nose was destroyed. Just another example of how these cars need to get off of the ground.

Kurt Busch has tried to be the model of consistency this Chase, and he was doing it well until this round. For the second week in a row, the organization missed the setup, and as a result, the 2004 series champion finds himself eighth in the points and basically needing a win to advance to Homestead.

Sunday’s race was the first time the No. 3 led a lap at Texas. Dillon was on the pole and ran in the top 10 all day until his interaction with Harvick that ended his day. Dillon continues to run well on intermediate tracks, and that will most likely be where he finds his first victory. Unfortunately for fans of the Richard Childress Racing team, it was not going to be on Sunday, thanks to the wreck after the contact with Harvick

Who is happyChase Elliott, like Dillon, continues to try and break through to the win column, although he has been closer this year than the RCR driver. Elliott led two meaningless laps on Sunday but was in or around the top 5 all night. The speed that Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 24 team have found this season bodes well for the young star going into 2017.

Kasey Kahne has not exactly torn it up this year. For a driver with 54 top-3 runs in his career, bragging about top 5s might seem silly. However, when it is your fourth top 5 of the season and that is your first time in three years with more than three, you feel pretty good. Kahne has not lived up to the equipment that he’s driving for a while but he’s been getting better late this season, and that may have him poised to another Chase run next season.

Ryan Newman had a top 10 fall into his lap, but he’ll take it. Newman has double-digit top-10 finishes for eight consecutive years. He didn’t make the Chase, but he keeps churning out top 10s on a consistent basis. He benefited from some drivers coming to the pits on the final caution, but they don’t ask how you got there when they send you the prize money.

When the checkered flag flew: Carl Edwards took the win for the 28th time in 443 career Cup starts.

This was Edwards’ fourth triumph at Texas Motor Speedway

Edwards’ victory is his third of 2016.

Twenty-eight wins puts Edwards in a tie with Kurt Busch and Rex White for 26th on the all-time wins list.

Joey Logano came home in second for the sixth top-2 run of the season.

Logano has two career top-2 finishes at Texas.

This is the eighth time in his career that Logano has finished as a runner-up. That ranks him in a tie for 72nd on the all-time first loser list.

Martin Truex, Jr. rounded out the podium with his seventh top-3 run of the season.

This is Truex’s third top 3 of his career at Texas.

Truex has ended up on the podium 30 times in his career. That ties him with Dave Marcis for 63rd on the all-time podium list.

Chase Elliott crossed the finish line in fourth to claim Rookie of the Race honors.

With one race to go before the field is set for the Championship 4 round of the Chase in Homestead, Jimmie Johnson and Edwards are locked into the final four. The remaining Chase contenders and their point positions:

  • 2. Joey Logano
  • 3. Kyle Busch
  • 4. Denny Hamlin
  • 5. Martin Truex, Jr.
  • 6.Kevin Harvick
  • 8. Kurt Busch

What is in the cooler – There are a lot of factors that go into rating a race. The amount of delay by weather and the fact that a race is cut short by rain doesn’t help. Add in that the race was ultimately at night on an intermediate track and you have the makings of a snoozer. Throw in zero on-track passes for the lead and it is complete. We’ll give this race two cold Knock Out Irish Red Ales from Bitter Sisters Brewery.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The penultimate round of the 2016 NASCAR Cup season is next Sunday, Nov. 13, at Phoenix. Race coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET. The race can be seen on NBC. It can also be streamed on NBCSports LiveExtra. The race can be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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6 comments

  1. Avatar

    Yawn. Boring race last night.

  2. Avatar

    Correction needed. Matt Kenseth is 5th -1 from 4th, not Truex.

  3. Avatar

    Even the two-fisted Kool Aid drinkers on PRN commented about how little passing there was. Imagine waiting all night in person for such a farce. As an aside, is there a more overhyped facility in all of motorsports? No limits, everything’s bigger, blah blah blah. Seems just like dozens of other Dull D events to me.

  4. Avatar

    Along with the starting the race with a green/yellow, and a competition caution (let the teams figure out when they want to pit), I think all Chase races should be run their full distance, even if it means finishing the next day. NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell was on the Morning Drive this morning and was asked that question. Unfortunately, expect no change to the present policy.

  5. Avatar

    The Mears crash also shows why there shouldn’t be grass at these tracks, the safety issues of the grass notwithstanding.
    Trying to figure out how bad a race could be to get less than 2 brews. Maybe the spring 2012 edition of this race that finished with a 710 lap green flag run fit the bill.
    I disagree about Chase races having different official completion rules. The fan who goes to Atlanta in the spring deserves the same consideration of a racegoer at fill-in-the-blank Chase race.

  6. Avatar

    I recall Major League Baseball announcing the night before that it was moving up the time of Game 2 of the World Series to get it in ahead of impending weather.
    NASCAR thinks it’s doing heavy lifting by moving up the green flag by five minutes when there is the threat of bad weather. How was the weather in the two hours preceding the scheduled start time yesterday? I think the front end of these races needs to be looked at as much as the end time. Most fans are somewhat adept at social media and wouldn’t miss being informed of an earlier start time.
    Of course, NASCAR in its infinite wisdom is pushing back start times next year, so events like yesterday are bound to be an even more regular occurrence.
    Can NASCAR control the weather? No, but the blind defense we always hear that NASCAR handled it the best they could is getting old.