There was no NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend and most of the Cup field took the rare mid-season opportunity to take a break from racing and stayed away from the Nationwide Series Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. The exceptions to the rule were Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski, and sure enough they dominated the race on Saturday night.
Brad Keselowski, who won the event last year, had taken pole position earlier on Saturday afternoon. He claimed his 10th career pole in his 158th start but his first at Nashville with a time of 30.871s, 0.052s ahead of Steve Wallace, with Edwards and Friday's Truck Series race winner Austin Dillon starting on the second row.
Keselowski carried that form over in the race itself and seemed unstoppable, leading 88 laps over the first half of the 250 lap race. But then on lap 112 the engine started to malfunction with Keselowski suspecting a dropped cylinder; despite attention on pit road to keep it going, the #22 was underpowered for the rest of the evening and could only manage a 12th place finish by the end.
That handed off the lead to Austin Dillon, as Edwards was still down the running order after getting a pit lane speeding penalty during the first round of pit stops on lap 84 under a debris-inspired yellow. "I can't believe I was leading and I sped on pit road," he said. "That was really, really not smart. But in the end it made our night more fun. I probably learned more."
When Keselowski hit problems, Edwards immediately saw the opportunity and charged past Dillon for the lead on lap 122 just before a caution was triggered for Mikey Kile spinning through the grass in-field after contact with Brian Scott. The only time Edwards was out of the lead after that was during the final round of pit stops under a third caution (for debris) on lap 176 but after that he was never under much pressure as his young Roush Fenway Racing team mate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. displaced Kevin Harvick Incorporated's Dillon from the runners-up position.
Edwards celebrated with his customary backflip and a play with the unique Nashville trophy, Sam Bass-designed Gibson guitar, to mark his 34th Nationwide victory in 230 starts and his fifth in 2011, one behind Kyle Busch who was not here tonight. Edwards has five victories at Nashville in 13 starts, which is twice as many as any other driver - and a lot of guitars.
"It boils down to [team owner Jack Roush] and the guys listening to us complain and not ignoring us," Edwards said of Rosh Fenway's continued success in Nationwide and indeed in Cup.
The next Cup event is the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend.Full results and times