Edwards ends 70-race winless streak with win at Phoenix

By John Marshall

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 4 2013 12:14 a.m. MST

From right, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bobby Labonte and David Ragan take a pit stop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Sunday, March 3, 2013, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Associated Press

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Carl Edwards pulled away on a late start to snap a 70-race winless streak Sunday, the second long drought he's ended at Phoenix International Raceway.

Edwards broke the longest slump of his career by winning at Phoenix in 2010. He won for the first time since Las Vegas in 2011 by leading the final 78 laps on the 312-mile race around PIR's odd-shaped oval.

Coming off a miserable week at Daytona, where he wrecked five cars, Edwards got a push from defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski on the restart with two laps left. He pulled away to win the first non-restrictor-plate race with NASCAR's new Gen-6 car.

Edwards did his celebratory backflip for the first time in nearly two years, then went into the stands to celebrate with the fans — just like he did after his last win at PIR.

Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson was second by inches and Denny Hamlin finished third with a bold pass on the apron during the final lap. Keselowski was fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended up fifth.

The last race at Phoenix, in November, set up Keselowski for his first Sprint Cup title after Johnson blew a tire. It also featured quite a sideshow.

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.

The drivers tried to downplay the confrontation after arriving in the desert this week, but it's been hard to avoid, with video of the scrap-and-dash being shown all over in promos for the race and in replays.

The only running this time was Ryan Newman: across the track and away from his car after it blew a right-front tire for the second time in 140 laps.

Inside his car, Mark Martin failed in his bid to become the oldest Sprint Cup winner.

The 54-year-old became the second-oldest driver to start up front in a Sprint Cup car, a few months short of Harry Gant's mark. Martin led the first 49 laps and 26 more later on, but couldn't sustain it in his bid to become the oldest Sprint Cup winner, finishing 21st.

Danica Patrick had a rough follow-up to her breakthrough week at the Daytona 500.

She became the first woman to win a pole and lead green-flag laps during NASCAR's season-opener, sending her popularity to a new level.

Patrick 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.

PATRICK UNINJURED: Danica Patrick slammed her car hard into the wall during a race at Phoenix International Raceway, but was uninjured.

Patrick blew a right-front tire coming around turn 4 on Sunday and slammed into the wall. She careened back onto the track and was hit hard again by David Ragan, flipping her hood over the windshield and shredding the left front fender.

Patrick coasted to a stop near the inside wall with pieces of her car strewn across half the home straightaway. A smoking chunk of tire also flew into pit lane.

Patrick climbed out of her car and was quickly cleared by the infield care center.

She became the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole and lead green-flag laps at the Daytona 500 last week.

Phoenix top-10 finishers

1. Carl Edwards, Ford

2. Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet

3. Denny Hamlin, Toyota

4. Brad Keselowski, Ford

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet

6. Clint Bowyer, Toyota

7. Matt Kenseth, Toyota

8. Tony Stewart, Chevrolet

9. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet

10. Jeff Burton, ChevroletSprint Cup standings

DriverPts.

1. Jimmie Johnson 90

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 82

3. Brad Keselowski 82

4. Denny Hamlin 72

5. Clint Bowyer 72

6. Greg Biffle 66

7. Mark Martin 65

8. Jeff Gordon 60

9. R. Stenhouse Jr. 60

10. Aric Almirola 60

11. Carl Edwards 59

12. Marcos Ambrose 52

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