Texas Motor Speedway battled weather issues every race weekend in 2016.
Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 had been scheduled for a 1:04 p.m. start, but it didn’t go full green-flag racing until more than six hours later. That cost the track a number of fans throughout the day.
In the end, it didn’t matter to Carl Edwards.
The veteran driver won a rain-shortened race, his fourth career win at Texas. More important, it earned him a spot in the Chase’s four-driver championship finale and he’ll have a chance to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.
Edwards can thank his pit crew and Mother Nature for his 28th career victory.
With rain threatening the area much of the night, drivers were aggressive throughout. And Edwards’ benefited by a strong pit stop by his No. 19 Toyota crew on Lap 257.
This is huge. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. This is cool. This team is really worked hard all year, and man, it’s just really cool.
Carl Edwards on winning the AAA Texas 500
With a sub-12 second pit stop, Edwards pulled ahead of then-leader Martin Truex Jr. off pit road.
It’s a lead he didn’t surrender, courtesy of timely rain showers hitting the track a little after 10 p.m.
Rain began falling on Lap 289, and Edwards wasn’t going to gamble away his lead with another pit road visit under caution.
Cars were eventually parked on Lap 293 and the race was called shortly thereafter.
A NASCAR race becomes official when more than half the laps are completed, and the 293 laps were well past the halfway mark of the scheduled 334-lap race.
“This is huge. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Edwards said. “This is cool. This team has really worked hard all year, and man, it’s just really cool. That’s all we said we needed was a shot and now we’re going to go to Homestead and we’re going to do what we have to do. This was a great test. We came here and knew what we had to do, we performed the way we needed to and I really believe we can do that at Homestead.”
Chase driver Joey Logano finished second and had a dominant car much of the night. Logano overtook pole-sitter Austin Dillon on the first green-flag lap and stayed in front for 178 of the next 183 laps.
Logano might have been able to get the lead back if the race had gone the final 41 laps. But it didn’t.
“The team did a very good job executing when we needed to,” Logano said. “Just didn’t have enough laps.”
Truex Jr. finished third and was disappointed he couldn’t play the role of “spoiler” by winning as a non-Chase driver.
The pre-race storylines, meanwhile, fell flat.
Jimmie Johnson, having already secured his spot in the championship round, posted an 11th-place finish but didn’t threaten to win this race for the fifth consecutive time.
Retiring star Tony Stewart had a forgettable night. He finished 31st and four laps down, falling behind multiple laps before the halfway point.
Kevin Harvick still couldn’t figure out a way to win a Cup race at Texas, and finds himself in almost a must-win situation going into Phoenix next week to stay alive for the championship.
The night simply belonged to Edwards. He had the dominant car when it mattered most.
Unfortunately for all involved, though, the racing wasn’t the story of the day. Instead, it became another weather-plagued race at TMS.
The track had weather issues once again and it’s becoming more clear that the track must get repaved sooner than later after 15 years on the current surface.
Rain fell during the national anthem of the scheduled 1 p.m. start and lasted roughly 30 minutes. But the porous asphalt on the top layer does not dry or drain well, and track officials spent hours to get it into racing conditions.
Drivers were eventually called to their cars at 6 p.m. and went on the track at 6:19 p.m. But the race didn’t officially start until 6:55 p.m. under caution with jet dryers still on the track. The race went full green on Lap 7 at 7:05 p.m.