Pick the football metaphor that best describes Carl Edwards’ last-turn win over Kyle Busch in the Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday at Richmond International Raceway. They drive for three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs, so why not?
Edwards threw his version of a Hail Mary between Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap, executing a bump-and-run in punting Busch out of the way for the lead. From there, Edwards sprinted the final 300 yards to pay dirt, crossing the line .675 of a second ahead of Busch to win for the second consecutive week.
Edwards, the Sprint Cup Series points leader, won a week earlier at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, and his victory Sunday gives Joe Gibbs Racing five wins in nine races this season. The latest, incredibly, marked the first time since the Cup Series has raced at RIR, beginning in 1953, that a race was won by a last-lap pass.
Although the top two finishers are teammates, Edwards indicated he was comfortable bumping Busch approaching the finish because both already have won (twice) this season. A victory in the first 26 races virtually assures a Cup driver of a berth in the season-ending 10-race Chase to decide the championship.
“Kyle’s an amazing teammate, and it’s like he got really slow there at the end,” Edwards said. “Something happened that last lap. It was like his rear tires went off or something.
“He went down into [Turn] 1, and I dove it in and I got to him and I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got something.’ And he went to get down to the bottom and park it in [Turns] 3 and 4 and I had already decided to go down there.
“So I thought, ‘Man, I’m going to give him a little nudge,’ and we both have got wins and we’re racing for fun getting these trophies.”
Busch did not appear to share Edwards’ “fun” description of the ending. Asked whether he had expectations of contact or whether he agreed that teammates can race differently when both have wins, Busch ignored the subjects of those questions.
“We had a great race car,” he said. “My guys made some awesome adjustments to it.
“It was really good for us to have an opportunity to run and race for the win like that.”
The finish marked a disappointing final 35 laps for the Busch brothers, one of whom appeared destined for victory. Kurt Busch, who dominated the spring race at RIR a year ago, was just as dominant in leading laps 315 to 360, when the caution flag flew for the eighth and final time after Brian Scott spun in Turn 4.
Then disaster struck for Kurt Busch. After a horrid pit stop in which he dropped from the lead to fifth place, he lost five places within four laps of the restart and would finish 10th.
Kyle Busch came out of the pits first on that stop, followed by Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. Kyle held off Edwards for the lead on the restart and fought off several attempts by his teammate to pass him in the ensuing 34 laps.
Kyle appeared to have the race won when he moved a couple of car lengths ahead of Edwards on the backstretch of the final lap, but Edwards surged out of Turn 3 and laid his front bumper to Busch’s back bumper midway through the turn. Busch drifted up as Edwards drove off to victory.
The finish capped an afternoon featuring 23 lead changes, the most in a Cup race at RIR in nine years. Harvick led the first 21 laps from the pole before Johnson ran on the point for the next 42.
Edwards flexed his muscle with runs at the front of 24, 64, 28 and 32 laps, giving way to Harvick for 41 laps just past the halfway point when his car tightened. Approaching 300 of 400 laps, the Busch brothers were in control, with Kyle leading 28 laps, Kurt the next 46 until the pit-road disaster and Kyle 35 laps until Edwards’ bump.
The running order behind Edwards and Kyle Busch in the top 10 at the finish was Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Harvick, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Martin Truex and Kurt Busch.
Tony Stewart, who missed the first eight races of the season because of a back injury sustained in a recreational vehicle accident during the off-season, finished 19th.