Artist Bill Patterson's victory car portrait.
Artist Bill Patterson's victory car portrait. Photo by Lynne Huntting
CARL EDWARDS of Columbia MO had what could be considered a near-perfect weekend at Phoenix International Raceway for the penultimate round of the two top tier NASCAR series. He could do no wrong. Sunday he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 Race from the pole position, and led five times for 53 laps. That was the frosting on his very big cake.

Edwards led every NSCS session prior to the race. Saturday he started second in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Wypall 200 Power by Kimberly Clark Professional Race, and then dominated it – leading 153 of 200 laps and won.

After this weekend, it might be difficult to remember that Edwards’ last Cup victory was the 2008 season’s finale.

Runner-up was RYAN NEWMAN/No.39 Chevrolet, 4.770 seconds behind Edwards. Third through fifth were JOEY

Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson. Photo by Lynne Huntting
LOGANO/No.20 Toyota, GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford, and JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet.

Four time Cup Champion, close to winning his unprecedented fifth prize, Johnson said “My emotions tried to get the best of me. I was on the edge of my seat, but I kept talking myself off the ledge. Just had to stay in check.”

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin. Photo by Lynne Huntting
A visibly disappointed DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 Toyota still leads the standings, 15 points ahead of Johnson. But it’s small consolation after running out of fuel at the end of the race to finish twelfth after leading the most laps – four times for 190 laps. “I’m frustrated — trust me. This is one of the bigger let downs I’ve had. We had a good run. Just bad strategy at the end. I can tell you — I’m going to use this as motivation for next week to get out there and try to win.”

Hamlin leads the Driver Points standings and owner J.D. GIBBS is on top for Owner Points. The margin in each case is 15 points, making this the closest Chase championship run in its seven-year history. Johnson and Harvick – 46 points behind Hamlin, still have a chance to win.

Harvick gained the most positions in the race – twice. He started twenty-ninth and was running in the top five. Then during a caution flag pit stop on Lap 224 he was put to the back of the pack as penalty for lug nuts not correctly installed. He charged back to finish sixth.

“”I wasn’t really mad. I was just disappointed because I thought that it all had come out from underneath us. But in the end our mistake is the thing that gained us ground today.”

No driver started at the back of Sunday’s race.

There were five cautions for 25 laps. In the middle of the race, especially green flag Laps 105 and 223, some could have liked to see the phantom driver strike … Jacque DeBris.

DR JESSE McGUIRE has played the National Anthem on his trumpet at PIR more than a few time. The Ph.D doctor keeps coming back due to popular request. The impeccable timing Sunday had the fireworks going off and the signature F-16 flyover happening at just the right moments.

The attendance was reported to be 75,000.