NASCAR » 20 March 2005
Edwards wins Atlanta thriller.
Carl Edwards took a spectacular debut Nextel Cup victory in Sunday's Golden Corral 500, passing Jimmie Johnson around the outside of the final turn on the last lap to steal a dramatic win.
Less than half a season after making his Nextel Cup debut for Jack Roush's #99 team, Edwards introduced his customary victory back-flip to an appreciative Atlanta Motor Speedway crowd after a race that started, and finished with a bang.
In a race dominated by a major opening lap crash and stunning performances by Johnson and Edwards' Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle, Edwards' daring last lap pass on Johnson came as a surprise even though the charismatic youngster also broke his Busch Series victory duck on Saturday.
After avoiding the opening lap melee, which eliminated or damaged more than a dozen cars, Johnson and Biffle led 308 of the 325 laps between them, trading places on numerous occasions and easily outclassing the rest of the field.
It was only a lightning quick final pit stop 30 laps from home that moved Edwards from a top five contender into the lead, and even though that lead lasted less than a lap once the green flag waved on lap 299, the driver of the #99 Scott's sponsored Ford was able to keep in the wheel tracks of Johnson's #48 Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet.
Biffle, who prior to the ninth and final caution period of the day had opened the most significant lead of the day, was never able to rally from a slow-ish final stop and despite a concerted effort could only watch the last lap unfold from about ten car lengths back.
After Edwards appeared to have used the best of his tyres with five laps remaining, few expected the St Louis based youngster to have an answer for Johnson, who led a total of 156 laps.
However after getting a good run off turn four on the penultimate lap, Edwards swung high in turn one as Johnson hugged the low line using his extra momentum to tuck right in behind the #48 Chevrolet as they charged down the back straight for the last time. Into turn three and again Johnson went low as Edwards went high. Again Edwards had the better momentum and this time it was enough to bring him alongside Johnson as they exited the turn, the #99 eventually nosing ahead at the line by just two hundredths of a second.
After leading just nine laps all day, the guts and commitment shown by the former Craftsman Truck Series ace on the final lap made his victory an extremely popular one with the Atlanta crowd who, like many others, are quickly warming to Jack Roush's newest star.
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