Carl Edwards added to his victory in the Nationwide Series at Memphis with victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Atlanta Motor Speedway – the 33rd race of the 2008 campaign.
Edwards took the lead on lap 310 of the Pep Boys Auto 500 and took the flag 2.684secs clear of Jimmie Johnson, who rebounded from a pit-lane penalty to secure second place and keep his position at the head of the Chase standings.
Victory for Edwards in the #99 Office Depot Ford saw him jump up to second in the Chase standings, but he remains 183 behind Johnson after he fought back to follow Edwards home.
“Are you kidding me?” Edwards reflected after discovering that a fine pit call by crew chief Chad Knaus had allowed Johnson to blast through to second place. “Man, Jimmie's magic. We've got to win those next three and hope for the best.”
Edwards took the lead from third-place finisher Denny Hamlin moments after a restart on lap 310 of 325. Hamlin spun his tyres coming to the start/finish line allowing Edwards to pass to the outside through turns one and two.
“Man, the second-to-last restart, Denny spun his tyres and I spun mine a little bit and then he spun them again and I pushed his bumper and then he spun them again and he went to the inside,” Edwards, who won his seventh race of the year and the 14th of his career, said. “I thought inside, 'Man, here's my chance to get to the outside.'
“I really didn't think he was going to spin them that second time. I thought I was going to bump him and he was going to keep on going and I figured I'd follow him for a while, but it just worked out great.”
Edwards held the lead through a caution for debris in turn two on lap 312, but Johnson gave up three positions when Knaus called him to pit road for new tyres on lap 314. Johnson restarted eleventh on lap 318, but by the end of that lap and on new rubber, he had passed four cars.
Working his way toward the front, Johnson passed Hamlin for second through the third turn on the final lap to cut his points loss to Edwards to a minimum.