Carl Edwards ended his night at Charlotte Motor Speedway exactly as he started it, in third place in the Chase for the Cup Bank of America 500 NASCAR race and on top of the standings for the 2011 Sprint Cup championship.
Edwards, from Columbia, Mo., lost out to his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, the race winner, but his third-place finish allowed him to expand his lead in the championship standings to five points over Kevin Harvick, who came in sixth, and by 35 points over Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson, who is seeking his sixth consecutive Sprint Cup championship, entered the race at Charlotte in third place in the points standings, just four points behind Edwards, but crashed his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Racing Chevrolet hitting the wall with just 20 laps to go, rendering the front end of his car undrivable.
Kenseth, who drives the No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway, led three times in the race for 46 laps and recorded his 21st career victory and his second-ever Chase win. It was his fourth consecutive top-ten finish after crossing the line 21st in the opening Chase event at Chicagoland Speedway. He is now third in the driver standings halfway through this year's Chase. "That's good," Kenseth said, "but it only matters where you are in the last lap at Homestead (Florida, the final race in the Chase for the Cup). But it's been a great five races, and it feels great to win."
Edwards was happy with the outcome of Saturday's race, both for himself and for the Roush Fenway team, but he was not happy with the way Kyle Busch raced as the two battled for second place behind Kenseth in the closing laps of the race.
"We should definitely be racing each other hard," Edwards said. "It's just that there's a difference between racing hard and then cutting across a guy's nose.
"What I told Kyle (who ended up coming in ahead of Edwards for second place) is I just wonder why, coming off Turn 2 when I got underneath him, that he drove down instead of going up to the wall like we would normally do," the Missouri native said. "I just let him know that the next time that happens, I'll just stay where I'm at and he can drive across my hood and wreck himself."
Busch led 111 of the 334 laps at 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night, which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment considering that the No. 18 Toyota started at the back of the 43-car field as a result of changing engines. Nevertheless, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was a little frustrated with the way things ended up. "It's frustrating, but we'll take it," Busch said. "And if we can finish second for here on out, we might win this deal."
Next weekend, Alabama's Talledega Superspeedway beckons for race No. 6 in the 2011 Chase for the Cup. Edwards has made 14 starts at Talledega, with no wins. He finished sixth there earlier this season in a race won by Johnson. Harvick has one win at Talledega in 21 starts.
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