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Edwards wins $1.2m All-Star pay cheque

Racing resumed with Carl Edwards taking the lead after the pit stops, followed by Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Regan Smith. Biffle got loose at the restart and fell to fifth, fought off Kyle Busch and then caught up Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne to fight over second - only for the second caution of the night to come out on lap 58 when Biffle tapped Kahne into the wall, which sent him into pit lane and to the garage.

The restart on lap 62 rapidly went three-wide with a lot of minor bumping and contact; Johnson took the lead from Edwards, only for the #99 to retake the lead down the inside on the backstretch just before the scheduled caution came out for the end of the second segment (which came with a nice incentive prize of $25,000.)

Johnson was among those drivers to take up the option of a pit stop, but Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin all stayed out at the front. Edwards spun his wheels at the restart allowing Kyle to slip back into the lead for the first time since the start of the race, and Jeff Gordon to slip into second place.

Matt Kenseth encouraged Regan Smith into a spin on lap 74 which brought out a fourth yellow; Johnson was again among those to come in for a pit stop, this time taking a full set of four tyres while he was there.

The restart on lap 78 saw Kyle Busch retain the lead, but Jeff Gordon got a poor restart and he dropped out of second place and back to sixth, allowing Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart to move up closer to the #18. Finally on lap 86 Edwards turned on the afterburners and rocketed past Busch to take the lead just in time for end of segment 3 (which came with a cheque for an extra $125,000 walking money, for those keeping count.)

After the ten minute break, it was time for the pit stop challenge portion of the All-Star race. The top five order coming in was Edwards, Busch, Biffle, Stewart and Hamlin; Edwards won the race off pit road and continued to lead with Busch and Biffle also maintaining position through the round of pit stops; the biggest loser was Tony Stewart who fell three spots, while Matt Kenseth gained two putting him ahead of David Reutimann and Denny Hamlin, then Stewart and Johnson.

For Edwards, winning the race off pit road was critical. "The key to winning this race are the guys behind me," Edwards said, indicating his pit crew. "They performed a flawless pit stop, and we got out in front of Kyle. He is a bear on those restarts, and if we had started behind him, I think it would have been really tough."

He got a great start when the green flag came out and pulled away from Busch, who was fending off a determined attack by Biffle for second place. That gave Edwards a critical few seconds to clear the field of battle, and while Kyle was soon back on the hunt it was already too late - if there were no cautions, then Edwards had too big a lead for Busch to make a late comeback.

And there were no cautions, although there were a few incidents that might have caused one if they'd gone another way: Mark Martin got some bodywork damage from contact with Jimmie Johnson that sent the veteran to the garage, while Tony Stewart got into the rear of Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch made heavy contact with the wall in turn 4 on lap 93. But with two laps to go, the field had string out into single file and while Kyle had pulled back Edwards' lead to just 0.4s, he was out of time to finish the job.

"We came up a little bit short, but we got beat by a faster car," said Kyle, after Edwards crossed the finish line in first place and claimed the All-Start title, trophy - and pay cheque. "A few more laps and maybe I would have got him, but all we had was 10 ... Tonight we just flat got beat." At least he could take solace in this being his best-ever finish in the event, the All-Star Race not having been the happiest of hunting grounds for the #18 in past years to say the least.


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