For much of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Carl Edwards was at minimum the best Chaser on track and, at times, the best driver on track, period. Edwards led 47 laps and had a spirited battle through the middle sections of the race with Kyle Larson.
He lost the war, totaling his car and half-a-dozen others in the process.
Heading into the final 20 laps, Edwards found himself with a comfortable lead over all three Chasers: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and Jimmie Johnson. All he needed was the race to go green the rest of the way to win his first Cup Series title.
It didn’t. Sadly, moments later Edwards went from the man on the precipice of a title to pulling a hard right into the outside wall in turn 1.
A caution for Dylan Lupton smoking off turn 2 suddenly scrambled the lineup. Off pit road, Joey Logano jumped to third and restarted directly behind Edwards. Logano got a much better jump and looked to the inside on the frontstretch. Edwards moved towards the inside in order to block Logano’s move, taking both drivers toward the yellow apron.
Here, contact was made, spinning Edwards head-on into the inside wall. From there, Edwards spun back up the track and was pile-driven from behind by Kasey Kahne. Edwards’ car climbed up on the hood of Kahne’s Chevrolet, then hit the outside wall hard before spinning down to the apron. Regan Smith was also collected in the melee.
Ahead of Edwards, Logano came back up the track and nudged his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski. Keselowski slid into the wall, collecting Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr. and Ty Dillon. Truex’s car burst into intense flames after hitting Keselowski, whose No. 2 car appeared to wreck hard right intentionally in order to avoid his teammate.
Edwards, Keselowski, Newman, Truex, Dillon and Smith were all eliminated from the race on the spot. Luckily, everyone involved in the crash wound up OK.
Normally, athletes in this situation would be quite unhappy and looking for someone or something to blame. Instead, Edwards turned inward and blamed himself. After exiting his stricken Toyota, Edwards eschewed the regular ambulance ride to the Infield Care Center in favor of walking himself back with safety officials nearby. Such a move is likely to result in a fine from NASCAR, but Edwards chose to venture down to Logano’s pit stall instead.
Once there, Edwards briefly talked to Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon. Edwards told Gordon that he took complete blame for the crash and told him to tell Logano to go get [the championship]. He then faced the music in front of the media and remained upbeat despite the tough break.
“So Joey was so good on the short run that I knew I could not give it to him – I could not give him that lane,” Edwards explained. “I went down there and blocked, he went down as far as a guy can be expected to go down, and I just thought we were going to possibly hit. I just thought I’d have a little more time to correct it, but we were so far down there he couldn’t go any further down basically and we ended up wrecked.
“That’s the way things go sometimes. This race, I was so proud of my guys, I was so happy with our performance. That run to catch Kyle and pass him, that was everything I had, that was the drive of my life. It didn’t yield a championship but I have a lot of pride in how we performed.”
The crash ended Edwards’ night and resulted in a 34th-place finish. Edwards walked out of Homestead-Miami Speedway with a fourth-place finish in points, his best performance since being the 2011 runner-up.