AVONDALE, Ariz. – Carl Edwards climbed from his car, stood on the door and landed a backflip near the finish line. He then hopped up on the wall in front of the grandstand, grabbed the checkered flag and waded into the crowd, trading high-fives with fans.
After a miserable week at Daytona, Edwards had plenty to celebrate.
That it came at Phoenix International Raceway only seemed fitting.
Coming through on his promise to dominate after his Daytona disaster, Edwards pulled away on a late restart and snapped a 70-race winless streak on Sunday, the second long drought he’s ended at Phoenix.
“This win feels as good or better as any win I’ve ever had,” Edwards said.
Edwards had a rough 2012 season, missing the Chase for the championship. His downward spiral continued at Daytona, where he wrecked five cars. On his way out of Florida, Edwards said he was ready to dominate and win at Phoenix.
He did just that, leading the final 78 laps on the 312-lap race around PIR’s odd-shaped oval in the first non-restrictor-plate race with NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car.
A running feud between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon boiled over late in the race, setting off a brawl in the pits and Bowyer on a WWE-style dash to Gordon’s hauler.
Danica Patrick had a rough follow-up to her breakthrough week at the Daytona 500, finishing 39th.
She couldn’t stay with the leaders at Phoenix, ending her day with one of the hardest hits of her career. It happened with about 100 laps left, when the right-front tire on Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet went down and slammed her into the wall.
Patrick’s car careened back into David Ragan, flipping her hood over the windshield and shredding the left front fender as protective foam from the driver’s side door flew onto the track.
She came to a stop along the inside wall with a trail of debris covering about half the home straightaway behind her. She climbed from the car and was quickly cleared by the medical center.
Edwards set himself up for this victory with a late-night call to new crew chief Jimmy Fennig, knocking on his door around midnight Saturday to go over some last-minute details. For race morning, Edwards went for a hike to clear his mind and focused.
It paid off, ending 2 years of frustration and self-doubt that grew as the streak grew.
“Last year we didn’t even make the Chase,” Edwards said. “For me to sit home while everybody was at the Chase stuff and in Vegas, that was a little bit of a shock to me and I did not like that at all. To get a victory puts us in better position to be in the Chase, it just feels good to win and I’m just very glad to be here.”