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Stewart steals win, Edwards dodges disaster

Newman and Busch's woes were just a small part of the 18 cautions seen at Martinsvile on this sunny, cloudless but chilly autumn Sunday afternoon. The first hundred laps in particular were overloaded with incidents and cautions, and the final hundred laps almost as bad; thank goodness for the middle section of the race proceeding comparatively calmly or else the proceedings would never have been finished before the light started to fade.

The first crash happened as early as lap 8, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. bounced off the kerbing at turn 1 (coloured pink for breast cancer awareness month) and sent Kurt Busch spinning, which also collected Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, AJ Allmendinger, Brian Vickers, Mike Skinner and Jeff Burton. Gordon had some major front-end damage, making his recovery to run with the lead pack for so much of the race all the more remarkable.

"I got caught up in that incident early on," said Gordon. "It looked like Dale Jr. got into the kerb a little bit getting into 1 and we just had nowhere to go ... and I centre-punched him. We're pretty lucky. That right-front brake duct was tore up pretty good and at this place, cooling those brakes is pretty important."

A second caution came out on lap 27 (which replaced a previously-scheduled competition caution) after Dave Blaney spun in turn 3 collecting Regan Smith, and Brian Vickers was also involved for a second time already in the afternoon. It was just the start of a torrid day for the Red Bull Racing driver, as Vickers was also the cause of the third caution on lap 46 when he spun while battling with Montoya, who also suffered some light damage from the accident.

It was David Reutimann's turn to spin in turn 2 on lap 65 for the fourth caution. He collected Martin Truex Jr., Reed Sorenson and Scott Speed. There was some consternation that Vickers had missed out this time, but not to worry, there were plenty more opportunities ahead - and sure enough, it was contact with Vickers that sent Jamie McMurray spinning on lap 85 in turn 3 for the fifth caution.

Caution six on lap 105 was between Marcos Ambrose and Montoya, Ambrose getting turned into the wall by contact and sustaining front-end damage to the #9. After this there was a reasonable 38-lap green flag stretch before Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a move on Joey Logano and sent the #20 into the wall on lap 149. Logano complained that he was heartily sick of this happening to him, but his frustration was given short shrift by veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli, who responded with words to the effect of "better grow some balls and take care of it."

"We did okay recovering from where we were," said a dejected Logano after the race. "I'm just not happy with the way we performed all day, myself included ... It's pretty disappointing."

Bobby Labonte and Hermie Sadler got together on lap 196 to bring out caution number eight. It was the second incident of the day for Labonte, who had also spun after being bumped by Dave Blaney on lap 98. No caution had come out on that occasion, to the surprise of many fans and media commentators watching the race, who speculated that NASCAR's concerns about getting the race in during daylight hours (Martinsville having no floodlights) might be encroaching into established safety protocols.

After action resumed on lap 203 the race finally enjoyed one of its longest green flag stints, running untroubled for 55 laps, during which Carl Edwards ended up a lap down after being passed by Jeff Gordon. Finally a spin by Mark Martin on the backstretch on lap 258 brought out the caution that handed Edwards his first free pass onto the lead lap.

The next green flag stint lasted almost a hundred laps - it was at this point that Edwards went well and truly off the lead lap - before the tenth caution of the afternoon that resulted from a spin by David Gilliland on lap 361, which put him into the wall at turn 1.

by Andrew Lewin



Related Pictures

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Kyle Busch gets into the wall as Mark Martin races by to bring out the 16th caution from laps 465-473 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. [Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Juan Montoya runs high as Brian Vickers spins during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. [Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
#99 crew chief Bob Osborne and driver Carl Edwards talk before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. [Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Tony Stewart gets past Jimmie Johnson after the final restart to make the pass for the win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. [Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Brian Scott. (Picture Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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