It's no secret that Carl Edwards is struggling right now, especially in comparison to his stellar 2011 season, where he came within one position of winning the Sprint Cup Series championship. In response, Edwards swore off the Nationwide Series, hoping the increased commitment to his Cup team would lend him his first championship.
Instead, 2012 has been a complete disaster, filled with both bad luck and underwhelming speed. Edwards returned to the Nationwide Series on Saturday afternoon, looking for some momentum, and found it, winning the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.
Edwards proved that he can still get it done, qualifying on the outside pole and holding off Brad Keselowski on a restart with three laps to go, winning for the first time since a Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.
Edwards opted to compete in Saturday's race in preparation of Sunday's Finger Lakes 335, a race that could make or break the rest of his Sprint Cup season. A win over the next five weeks would get him even with Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch - other drivers in wild card range with one win. He also has an outside shot at cracking the top-10 as well, but the consistency has to start on Sunday.
Watkins Glen is a track that rewards repetition and muscle memory, traits he believes he gained by competing on Saturday. Only time will tell if the extra laps make a difference in turning Edwards subpar 2012 around.
Six other Sprint Cup regulars were entered into Saturday's race for similar reasons. That list included Chase hopefuls Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch, and Brad Keselowski. But it was Keselowski who appeared to have maximized the value of Saturday's track time, leading 42 of 84 laps, prompting many to vote Keselowski as the favorite entering the Finger Lakes 335. He finished second to Marcos Ambrose in last year's event.
Sam Hornish Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Ron Fellows completed the top-5. Opinions on Saturday's race, as well as a complete finishing order can be found after the jump.
Dillon received a pass-through penalty on lap 38 for taking the inner-loop shortcut, and then shredded a tire on lap 76 after making contact with Michael Annett. Meanwhile, Sadler never found the setup that complimented his Chevrolet and grinded-out a 12th place finish.
As for Hornish, Saturday's top-5 was his fourth in his last five races. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished fourth, making him the big winner in regards to the Series Championship. Sadler's lead is down to 13 points over Stenhouse, with Hornish lurking just 24 points back. Dillon has fallen to 29 points out, heading into another road course race at Montreal next weekend.
I've always enjoyed this part of the Nationwide Series schedule. Having Watkins Glen and Montreal in back-to-back weekends produces some of the most-compelling races of the season. Combine that with the now defunct races at Mexico City and Lucas Oil Raceway and the Nationwide Series gave distinctively different television from that of the Sprint Cup Series. Here's hoping that more short track and tight road courses can be added to the schedule in the coming years.
Third strike for Dillon (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
Final Laps: Carl goes flippin' for a foot-long (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
|1||2||60||Carl Edwards(i)||Subway Ford||82||0||Running||2||9|
|2||4||22||Brad Keselowski(i)||SKF/Discount Tire Dodge||82||0||Running||4||44|
|3||1||12||Sam Hornish Jr.||PPG Dodge||82||42||1||Running||2||15|
|4||10||6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford EcoBoost Ford||82||40||Running|
|5||15||5||Ron Fellows||Canadian Tire Chevrolet||82||39||Running|
|6||5||54||Kyle Busch(i)||Monster Energy Toyota||82||0||Running||1||1|
|7||11||38||Kasey Kahne(i)||Great Clips Chevrolet||82||0||Running|
|8||3||33||Paul Menard(i)||Menards/Rheem Chevrolet||82||0||Running|
|9||8||31||Justin Allgaier||Brandt Chevrolet||82||36||1||Running||1||1|
|10||9||11||Brian Scott||Dollar General Toyota||82||34||Running|
|11||19||43||Michael Annett||Pilot/Flying J Ford||82||33||Running|
|12||7||2||Elliott Sadler||Charter Chevrolet||82||32||Running|
|13||14||30||Miguel Paludo(i)||Duroline Chevrolet||82||0||Running||1||4|
|14||20||44||Mike Bliss||TriStar Motorsports Toyota||82||30||Running|
|15||13||20||Ryan Truex||Grime Boss Toyota||82||30||1||Running||1||2|
|16||16||99||Victor Gonzalez Jr.||Delta Commercial/IMCA Toyota||82||28||Running|
|17||27||81||Jason Bowles #||American Majority Toyota||82||27||Running|
|18||28||01||Mike Wallace||JD Motorsports Chevrolet||82||26||Running|
|19||21||51||Jeremy Clements||USS James E Williams DDG 95 Chevrolet||82||26||1||Running||1||1|
|20||34||75||Kenny Habul||SunEnergy 1 Racing, LLC Toyota||82||24||Running|
|21||24||59||Kyle Kelley||Jamison Eng./UPR.com Chevrolet||82||23||Running|
|22||6||18||Joey Logano(i)||GameStop/BuyMyTronics.com Toyota||82||0||Running|
|23||30||3||Austin Dillon #||Advocare Chevrolet||82||21||Running|
|24||12||88||Cole Whitt #||TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet||81||20||Running|
|25||39||24||Tim Connolly||MichaelConnollyEndowmentforLungCancerRes Chev||81||19||Running|
|26||40||14||Eric McClure||Hefty/Reynolds Wrap Toyota||77||18||Running|
|27||26||97||Joe Nemechek||AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota||55||17||Engine|
|28||41||70||Tony Raines(i)||ML Motorsports Dodge||45||0||Vibration|
|29||25||87||Alex Kennedy||Global Barter Corporation/Dream Factory Toyota||37||16||1||Accident||1||5|
|30||38||4||Daryl Harr||iWorld Chevrolet||33||14||Running|
|31||31||40||JJ Yeley(i)||Key Motorsports Chevrolet||27||0||Electrical|
|32||42||23||Dexter Stacey||Key Motorsports Chevrolet||25||12||Handling|
|33||43||89||Morgan Shepherd||Hyland's Leg Cramps Chevrolet||23||11||Brakes|
|34||35||53||Eric Curran||Whelen/Michael J. Fox Foundation Dodge||18||10||Electrical|
|35||29||41||Timmy Hill||Lilly Trucking Ford||14||9||Alternator|
|36||37||39||Matthew Bell||Global Barter Corporation Ford||11||8||Accident|
|37||32||15||Chris Cook(i)||Lilly Trucking Chevrolet||8||0||Overheating|
|38||17||19||Alex Popow||G-Oil/Noah's Light Foundation Toyota||5||6||Accident|
|39||18||42||Josh Wise(i)||Key Motorsports Chevrolet||3||0||Vibration|
|40||33||10||Jeff Green||TriStar Motorsports Toyota||3||4||Vibration|
|41||36||46||Matt DiBenedetto||The Motorsports Group Chevrolet||2||3||Brakes|
|42||22||47||Stephen Leicht(i)||Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet||2||0||Brakes|
|43||23||7||Danica Patrick||GoDaddy.com Chevrolet||2||1||Accident|