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BROOKLYN, Mich. — Immediately following his victory in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway, Carl Edwards wanted to show he is a man of the people.
Edwards parked his Ford at the start/finish line, grabbed the checkered flag and ran up through the grandstands to celebrate with the fans.
He also was fairly certain his win prompted a lot of hooting and hollering in the corporate suites at the track. With MIS so close to the hub of the auto industry in Detroit, Edwards saw this as a landmark victory, especially since he had to pass the Ford of teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with less than 10 laps left to earn this win.
“This is a huge day for the Ford Mustang and a really special win with the folks from Ford here,” Edwards said. “This car is very, very fast.”
Edwards, who is the current points leader in the top tier Sprint Cup Series, had qualified third for the Nationwide Alliance Truck Parts 250 race, behind pole winner Paul Menard, and Defiance native Sam Hornish, Jr.
Hornish, who had matched a career best on the stock car side by qualifying second, took the lead on the second lap, but was quickly overtaken by Edwards.
Edwards led the next 35 laps of the 125-lap event before Elliott Sadler mounted a brief challenge. Stenhouse, who took the points lead in the Nationwide Series with Saturday’s strong showing, took his first lead on lap 49.
After the field cycled through the pits, Edwards pushed back out front on lap 85. Kyle Busch and Mark Martin both led for short stretches before Stenhouse and Edwards made it an all-Ford fight to the finish.
Stenhouse overtook Edwards on lap 104, but Edwards shot past his Roush Racing teammate a final time with nine laps left.
“I thought Ricky was setting sail. I didn’t think I was going to be able to pass him,” Edwards said. “Ricky drove his heart out — that guy is unbelievable.”
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“On that last restart I tried to get as far out there as I could, but Carl caught us,” Stenhouse said. “We just got too tight at the end. Our Mustang was fast all day, just not as fast as Carl’s.”
Hornish ran in the top 10 for the first 80 laps, but banged the wall in the closing stages of the race and dropped to 24th.
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski had led for 11 laps midway through the race, but a penalty for an uncontrolled tire forced him to take a pass-through and dropped him from contention. He finished ninth.
Menard encountered some late-race difficulty, but fought his way back and finished fourth. Kyle Busch was third, with Trevor Bayne taking fifth.
“Hopefully, we put on a good show. It was a good race all day,” said Busch, who started 12th but charged into the top 10 right away and stayed there all afternoon. “The guys did a great job giving me a good beast. We just didn’t have a car that was capable of running with the top two up there.”
Elliott Sadler finished eighth, but pulled within two points of Stenhouse in the season standings.
Kurt Busch wins third straight pole
While his younger and more cantankerous brother Kyle has been grabbing a lot of the headlines lately for feuding with other drivers, Kurt Busch has been dominating the Sprint Cup Series qualifying. The elder Busch won his third straight pole Saturday, turning a lap at Michigan International Speedway at 188.699 miles per hour.
Kurt Busch will lead the field at the start of Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 Sprint Cup Series race. He just clipped past David Reutimann, who had a lap at 188.684 mph.
“It’s amazing how it comes down to these thousandths of a second,” Busch said after he made his lap around the two-mile oval in 38.156 seconds, besting the 38.159 of Reutimann. “This was a great run for our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger. Our car is fast.”
With Busch winning three in a row, and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski taking the pole the previous week, the Penske team appears to be on a bit of a roll. Busch said the momentum has everyone feeling good about his chances in Sunday’s race.
The recent Penske Racing success with its No. 22 team puts a very positive mindset in play.
“This is a special accomplishment,” Busch said. “There’s a lot of good feeling from sitting on the pole. We can see it throughout the garage. Everybody is pushing the envelope in all areas.”
Reutimann said his No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota is much improved over what he had been driving earlier this season.
“We have really good horsepower under the hood,” Reutimann said. “I’ve complained about motors the better part of the year and they’ve brought a really good piece here, so I’m excited to race.”
As for the recent string of qualifying domination by Busch, Reutimann seemed as puzzled as anyone to explain it.
“Some guys are really good qualifiers and obviously they’re on to something,” he said. “I don’t know — he just has got it figured out right now, I guess. It can go either way.”
STEWART SIXTH: Former Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart qualified sixth, but he has history of success at MIS. Stewart has a win and 10 top five finishes in 24 career starts.
“I think it is just one of those places. We have just always been fairly solid here, it seems like,” Stewart said. “I like it, it is a driver’s track. You can move around and help yourself out.”
Stewart won the Cup race in June of 2000, coming from 28th at the start to take the checkered flag. That wasn’t his best recovery at MIS, however. In the June race of 2007, Stewart started 41st and moved up 38 positions to finish third.
JUNIOR STARTS 15TH: Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the 15th fastest car in qualifying. Earnhardt, who is third in the points standings after the first 14 races of the season, said he thinks his car will perform better in the race.
“I think there is a little bit more in the car,” Earnhardt said.
“The car is pretty good. I’m real happy. I was real happy with how the car was in practice yesterday all day. We should have a good time on Sunday.”