NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ As singers from honky-tonks to the Grand Ole Opry crooned in downtown Nashville, nobody was more in tune on Saturday than Carl Edwards.
Edwards largely dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Series race near the Music City and scored his second series victory of the year.
Kyle Busch and Edwards were in the top five in both of Friday’s practices. Come race time, they backed up their posted speeds.
The pair held the first and second positions for a majority of green flag action with the field being shuffled at times during pit stops. Various teams tried four, two, and no tire pit stops in an attempt to gain track position and challenge for the lead. In the end Edwards made it the eighth time in eight races this season that a Cup regular pulled into Victory Lane. Busch chased him to the stripe with Brad Keselowski a distant third behind the dominant duo.
Pole sitter Joey Logano finished fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top five.
Edwards and Busch staged a spirited side by side battle for a number of laps in the final 50 miles until Edwards pulled away in the late stages of an otherwise lackluster race.
Following the race, Edwards spoke of the duel with Busch
“I had a lot of confidence early but then when he got in front I was running my heart out,” said Edwards. “That was a hard as I could drive and I almost could not get by. It was tense. That’s what racing is about. We were side drafting off of each other and he was diving into the corners trying to slide up into me. We crossed over maybe once or twice. That’s as good as it gets. And also Brad (Keselwoski) was back there. I knew if we raced hard enough Brad could come there and be in the mix. It was stressful but in a really fun way. And that is why we race to be part of things like that. It was fun.”
Although disappointed in the loss, Busch cracked a smile when asked of the battle.
“Carl got a run on me and got to the bottom,” said Busch. “I could keep the top lane momentum going a little bit. I knew I couldn’t do it through (turns) three and four. I was too tight down there. I let Carl go and him having the wrong trajectory getting into the corner kind of slipped up the track. I came back to his bottom and did just a little cross over, but I didn’t quite finish that pass. He had a really fast car and we could keep up with him momentarily but just not for the whole run that we needed to.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the Nationwide-only drivers in fifth place. “It’s what we needed. To come away with a fifth place finish is good for us,” said Stenhouse. “We still need a little bit more speed and get a handle on this car. It was a good day to finish fifth. I don’t think I ever finished here.”
Edwards’ victory tied him with NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Jack Ingram for fourth on the Series all-time win list with 31.
After getting the best of the brief, but tight battle with Busch, Edwards was rewarded with another Nashville guitar trophy, and that was music to Edwards’ ears.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com.)