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NWS: Bowyer holds off Edwards for first title

Clint Bowyer proved he could win the Nationwide Series championship as a front-runner, but he's probably glad Carl Edwards ran out of races.

And in a season whose early stages were dominated by Toyota, Kyle Busch tied Sam Ard's long-standing record of ten wins in a single season.

A model of consistency, Bowyer posted 29 top-ten finishes in 35 races, and though he won only one race - the rain-shortened event at Bristol in March - the driver of the #2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet steadily built a commanding lead throughout the season and held off a furious charge from Edwards over the final nine races.

After finishing 37th at Bristol in August, Edwards was third in the championship standings, trailing Bowyer by 241 points. But with nine straight top-five finishes - including victories at Richmond, Memphis, Phoenix and Homestead and runner-up results at California and Texas - Edwards closed the gap.

The win at Phoenix left Edwards 56 points behind the championship leader, but Bowyer perhaps preserved his championship in that race after sustaining heavy damage to the nose of his car during a restart on lap 79. Bowyer dropped as low as 24th in the running order but rallied to finish fourth and keep his points loss to Edwards to a minimum.

“That last week at Phoenix, I think that was probably the turning point for winning the championship,” team owner Richard Childress said. “Those guys got in there and dug and dug, and that car was killed in the front end, and if we ever had luck on our side, it was that day - we didn't lose a radiator. And our Chevrolet Monte Carlo just did a great job, and Clint drove it back to the front, and a couple more laps might have won the race with it.”

As a consequence, Bowyer held a 56-point lead entering the Ford 300 season finale at Homestead. Though Edwards won the race - good for 190 points - Bowyer kept his rival in sight, finished fifth after starting 13th and held on to the championship trophy by 21 points.

With Bowyer growing up in Emporia, Kan., and Edwards in Columbia, Mo., the series champion and runner-up long have had a healthy respect for each other.

“Carl is a hell of a race car driver,” Bowyer said. “There's no way of getting around it. You know, I'm damn proud to be able to beat a race car driver like that and a team and an organization like he's got behind him. It says a lot about ours and the people that surround me.



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Clint Bowyer
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, beats Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, to the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 6, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with his wife, Chandra and daughters Genevieve and Lydia Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, crosses the finish line for the victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS drives to victory Thursday, February 18, 2016 winning the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Can-Am Duel races at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. This is Earnhardt Jr.`s second consecutive Duel victory. He will start on the inside of Row 2 for Sunday`s Daytona 500 race. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Chevrolet, races Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, poses in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Chevrolet, Brian Vickers, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Nature`s Bakery Chevrolet, practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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