Carl Edwards wins Sharpie Mini 300 Busch race amid pit stop controversy

Dave Ongie • Mar 24, 2007 at 10:09 AM

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Carl Edwards confers with a crew member before the start of Saturday's Sharpie Mini 300. Erica Yoon photo.

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BRISTOL, Tenn. - Opportunity knocked, and Carl Edwards answered.

NASCAR gave Edwards a free pit stop after controversy erupted over whether pit road was open on a caution that came out during lap 187, and Edwards cashed it in to win the Sharpie Mini 300.

The trouble began when Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer entered pit road when it was apparently closed, a mistake that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was penalized for in a recent Nextel Cup race.

On Saturday, due to a miscommunication on the part of NASCAR, the green light that signaled the opening of pit road didn't come on until Kyle Busch and Edwards, the race leaders, had gone past the entrance to pit road.

So the leaders were allowed to pit during the caution and return to the front of the field before the restart on lap 200.

Edwards took the lead on lap 241 and never looked back, holding off his Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth to earn the win.

"Let me go on the record for saying, as far as I know, that's unprecedented for them to make a judgment call and fix a mistake," Edwards said after the race. "It was cool of them to do that, and it meant a lot for Matt to race me so clean at the end."

Kenseth got into second place in the closing laps and had his hands full holding off a hard charging Kyle Busch while trying to catch his teammate.

"We got tied up with Ryan and kind of bent my fender," Kenseth said. "I was too tight after that to get things going.

"I wish I had got to (Edwards) and made things more exciting."

Kenseth was still scratching his head after the race regarding NASCAR's decision.

"The first time pit road was closed," Kenseth said. "There's a red flag and a red light. All the guys that went under the commitment line, I don't understand why they got their spot back."

NASCAR President Mike Helton said that after a mistake had been made, a little common sense was needed to fix the situation.

"The light went from red to green somewhere after the pace car passes which was unfair to somebody," Helton said. "It was a miscommunication on our part and there's no absolute fix for that, but we felt that was the most fair fix.

"Somebody was going to lose on the deal, but we tried to take the most fair route possible."

It was an adventurous road to third place for Kyle Busch, who also benefited from NASCAR's pit decision.

He spun twice but managed to save his car both times. By the final few laps of the race, however, he had the freshest tires of any of the leaders and finished right on Kenseth's bumper.

But the miracle third-place finish wasn't enough to appease Busch after some difficulty getting through lapped traffic. Busch spun out twice while trying to pass lapped traffic, and was leading or trying to take the lead on both occasions. The second spinout occurred in turn three of lap 232, with Busch trying to pass Mike Wallace while sandwiched between then-leader Ryan Newman and Edwards. "It's just the fact that lapped cars don't give way to the leaders when they're already a lap down," Busch said. "(Mike Wallace) was pathetic today, absolutely outrageously stupid.

"He was mad at us because NASCAR gave us a break because they didn't open pit road right … he's just being a complete moron."

"I can understand Kyle's frustration," Edwards said. "There were one or two guys in particular that were extremely tough to pass."

Newman and Bowyer held on to round out the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. logged a top 10 in a rare appearance on the Busch Series, piloting his No. 8 Chevy to a sixth-place finish.

Juan Pablo Montoya survived his first scrape with Bristol, climbing 20 spots during the race to notch a respectable 14th place finish.

Montoya witnessed a typical race at Bristol. When the smoke cleared, 12 cautions ate up just over a third of the race.

"We kept in one piece and that was the most important thing," Montoya said.

Edwards did as well - and celebrated at the start/finish line with his now-customary victory backflip from his car.

"I'm really uncomfortable whenever he does that over asphalt like that," team owner Jack Roush said. "I'm not sure what kind of insurance his mother has on him, but I'm sure I don't have enough."

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