Joe Gibbs Racing's Carl Edwards and Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch are facing sizable points deficits after the first of three races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup semifinal round.
Edwards' troubles began when he sped on pit road during his first pit stop, requiring he fall to the rear of the field. But his championship hopes took a significant hit when a blown tire caused him to slam into the Turn 3 wall.
Although his team would make repairs and Edwards would return to the track, the lack of attrition in the 500-lap race relegated him to a 36th-place finish. He is 32 points behind Kyle Busch for the final transfer position that will send four of the eight remaining playoff drivers to the championship finale, essentially assuring Edwards must win either next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway or Nov. 13 at Phoenix International Raceway to avoid elimination.
"It was nothing that we could have really avoided," Edwards said of the tire failure. "That's just the kind of thing that happens. It's a high performance sport and everybody is pushing everything. We could have won both Texas and Phoenix earlier this year, so I feel very confident going to those two tracks so we'll be alright."
Neither Harvick nor Kurt Busch experienced a mechanical issue -- both just couldn't get their cars to handle. Harvick was competitive early, running up front and looking like he might challenge for a win that would have automatically advanced him to the championship bracket.
But near the middle portion of the race Harvick began falling backwards and was never able to recover. He finished 20th, two laps behind winner Jimmie Johnson. He trails Kyle Busch by 16 points.
"We were slow all weekend," Harvick said. "We could just never get the handle on it."
Kurt Busch could relate to what his SHR teammate was dealing with. Similarly to Harvick, Busch could never get his car to handle properly around the half-mile Virginia track. He finished 22nd.
All around it was a difficult afternoon for SHR. Its other two drivers, Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart, placed 24th and 26th, respectively.
"We missed it," Busch said. "I don't know where, how, why, we missed it. Even SHR as a group, we didn't perform well. That was not the day we needed."
Goody's Fast Relief 500 results
|7||1||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||500||Running||147|
|39||36||Gray Gaulding||Chevrolet||360||Rear gear||0|
|40||39||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||21||Accident||0|