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Las Vegas, NV (Sports Network) - Carl Edwards overcame one pit-road penalty, but avoided a second one, then held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. on two restarts to capture the UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The No.99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford crossed the finish line 0.504 seconds ahead of "Junior."
The victory was Edwards' second consecutive win and ninth of his Sprint Cup career.
"That was a pretty spectacular race car we had out there today," said Edwards. "I'm very proud to be driving this race car, everybody at Roush Fenway has done a great job."
Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton completed the top-five.
Other finishers of note: Kasey Kahne (6th), Kyle Busch (11th), Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman (14th), defending series champion Jimmie Johnson (29th), Jeff Gordon (35th) and Tony Stewart (43rd).
Busch, the hometown favorite, began the day by leading the field to the green flag for 267 scheduled laps of racing. Busch led that first lap and seven more fast ones until Jamie McMurray brought out the first caution flag of the day. Busch and about half of the field stayed out during the yellow.
Early on Busch and Edwards quickly showed they were the class of the field. And they weren't content to just ride, they battled each other for the lead side-by-side. By lap 30 Busch's handling went away and he faded to fourth behind Biffle and Gordon. It was the Edwards-Biffle show as they led by more than four seconds at lap 48.
With a long green-flag run, those who didn't stop on the first caution flag were getting ready to pit under green. The stops began at lap 50. Both Kurt Busch and Biffle were penalized for speeding on pit road - leaving both way behind the leaders.
A few laps later, those who had stopped at lap seven were forced to pit giving the lead back to Edwards. He held more than seven second on Kyle Busch and nine seconds on Mark Martin.
However, a debris caution flag on lap 68 erased Edwards' big lead. Edwards came in for four new tires and fuel along with Martin and a number of the leaders as the different strategies jumbled the top-10 again.
First Burton, then Kyle Busch took turned leading the way. Meanwhile, Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart were in third and fourth, respectively. Busch built the lead to more than three seconds as the field reached the 100-lap mark. The only driver keeping pace with him was Edwards who slipped past Burton for third at lap 101.
On lap 109 Stewart slammed the wall in turn four with what appeared to be a blown tire. It was a pretty hard hit and the No.20 driver was slow to get out of the car, walking to the ambulance with a limp and plenty of support.
"That was the hardest hit I've taken in a long time," said Stewart. "It just went straight in...it hit so hard it got my lower back sore and legs felt half-numb and tingled until we got to the infield care center."
On the corresponding pit stop, Edwards' pit crew lost control of a tire sending last week's winner to the end of the longest line. The first green flag lap after the caution, Matt Kenseth and Gordon worked together to get around Kyle Busch for the race lead.
Gordon tried to get around Kenseth and lead a lap, but the No.17 Ford was too tough and fought him off. Then he pulled out to a two-second lead as the race hit the mid-point.
The pace was going along pretty quickly until lap 144 when Robby Gordon blew a right-front tire to bring out the caution flag. Kenseth beat Gordon off pit road by about two feet, denying Gordon the five bonus points again. The No.24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet would get his five points later in the race.
Kenseth, Gordon and Kyle Busch settled into a rhythm until a lap 161 caution flag. Behind them Edwards was climbing the charts to ninth.
This time Gordon won the race off pit lane and his No.24 Chevy enjoyed the clean air. He built the lead to one second with 95 laps remaining. A Scott Riggs spin brought out another caution flag and erased Gordon's lead as everyone headed down pit lane.
Earnhardt Jr., Harvick and Edwards took just two tires to lead the pack after the pit stop, while Gordon took four tires and came out sixth.
At the 195-lap mark, "Junior" was still out front, but Roush Fenway Racing teammates Edwards and Kenseth were second and third, respectively. Harvick was falling back and Gordon was fifth. Edwards caught Earnhardt Jr. with 73 laps to go and slid underneath the No.88. Kenseth followed him through as Earnhardt Jr. fell to third. Gordon got around Harvick, but was five second behind the leaders.
The field was about 25 laps away from the final pit stop which might decide the race. Fifty-three laps to go and Edwards held more than two second on teammate Kenseth. Another pair of teammates, Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon, were just behind.
Then a debris caution flag on lap 213 set up final pit stops. The final pit stop saw Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Edwards and Gordon win the battle. But Edwards had a tire roll across pit lane which normally requires and "end-of- the-longest-line" penalty. This time, however, NASCAR saw a replay that showed a cameraman interfere with the pit crew and elected not to penalize the No.99 team.
They were still the top-four with 40 laps remaining. Edwards got around "Junior" and caught Kenseth with 37 to go. But passing his teammate was not so easy.
Then Dale Jarrett brought out caution flag No.9 with a spin on lap 232 to slow the action.
On the restart, Kenseth built the lead to three lengths, but one lap later he got high and Edwards dove underneath him for the lead. He quickly built the lead to one second. The gap was 1.6 seconds with 20 laps to go and two second with 17 laps remaining.
Earnhardt Jr. got around Kenseth, but had nothing for the No.99 Ford. Then with 11 laps to go Kurt Busch slammed the wall and set up a short five-lap shootout for the win.
On the restart, Edwards took off, but Earnhardt Jr. spun his tires. Kenseth took advantage and jumped to the outside, Gordon dropped to the bottom and both got around the No.88. But the No.17 and No.24 got together and both spun out bringing out a final caution flag. The mess was enough to red flag the race and save a two-lap finish for the fans.
Edwards again got a good restart, but "Junior" stayed right with him this time. Still, Earnhardt Jr. could never get close enough to try a pass and settled for second place.
"Carl had an awesome race car...but we're pretty proud of our finish," said Earnhardt Jr., who unofficially climbing into the top-10 overall.
The win gives Edwards the championship lead for the first time in his career, 21 points ahead of Kyle Busch.
The next race in the series is scheduled for Sunday, March 8th at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
03/02 20:36:59 ET
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