It was a Saturday, but things looked like a Sunday drive for Carl Edwards in the “OneMain Financial 200″ NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway. The only things missing were a few back roads, and maybe some sunshine.
Edwards ended up leading 179 of 200 laps and cruised to a 0.79-second win over second-place Brad Keselowski. Neither he nor Clint Bowyer were able to get close enough to Edwards over the final 32 laps to make a difference.
The win was the seventh of the season for Edwards in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, tying a career high, and gave him a 2011 sweep of the Nationwide races at Dover following his win here in May.
“That was a great race,” Edwards said. “It all starts at the shop. These Ford Mustangs they’ve been building are spectacular. Jack [Roush] listened to us a few years ago when we told him all the things we needed. That was a very fast car. Anybody driving that car would have done really well. The pit stops were great, the strategy was great. It was a lot of fun.”
Edwards qualified fourth and needed 10 laps to catch pole-sitter Elliott Sadler. After that, he didn’t relinquish the lead except for when he made pit stops. Keselowski led two of those occasions for five laps each, but didn’t have anything for Edwards when Edwards was actually on the track.
“I thought [the difference between us] was all handling till the restarts, and Carl just motored it,” Keselowski said. “We had some great strategy. Carl was just way faster than everybody else. We weren’t as good as Carl was for sure. It wasn’t meant to be. Carl’s car was a lot faster and he deserved to win the race.”
Although Edwards may well have driven away from anybody on this day, he definitely had some luck as well. The race was thrown into chaos on lap 160, when Brian Scott, while trying to enter pit road, crashed into the sand barrels protecting drivers from the edge of the outer pit wall. That brought out the yellow flag and had the effect of putting the field in a blender, as many drivers who had been up front suddenly found themselves battling traffic at the back of the field.
One of those unlucky drivers was Sadler, who came into the race trailing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 14 points but left the track trailing by 22 points after a 14th-place finish.
“We were a little bit too loose today,” Sadler said. “But I still feel like we had a top-10 car. As soon as we pitted, the caution came out. It definitely put us in a bigger hole, but we’ve got five races left and anything can happen.”
Stenhouse, meanwhile, found himself breathing a little easier after the day’s result, even though it wasn’t what he hoped from a finishing standpoint.
“I wish we would have been a little bit better,” Stenhouse said. “Obviously the result was good for us for points, but we never had the car exactly where we needed it. We stayed tight the whole day. We got a little better on the last stop and we didn’t make any mistakes, and that’s what we have to do each and every week. A top five was definitely a good result for us.”
That being said, Stenhouse was happy about the points situation.
“I think we’re in control for sure, but we have to control what we do,” he said. “We have to not make mistakes and we have to bring good fast cars to the race track, and I have to keep it out of the fence and keep the fenders on it. I felt comfortable coming into the day and I feel a lot more comfortable afterwards. I think we have a race team that’s pretty determined to win this thing.”
The race had just four cautions for 22 laps, one of which was a competition caution, and the other two of which were for debris – there were no multi-car accidents. The result was one of the quicker races in the last six years, with an average speed of 117.321 mph. Twenty-eight of the 43 cars finished the race, with 12 finishing on the lead lap.
For complete race results, click here.