NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
                === Edwards snaps winless drought at Phoenix ===
 
 Avondale, AZ (Sports Network) - Carl Edwards' celebratory backflip has finally
 returned in the Sprint Cup Series.
 
 Edwards  ended  a two-year  winless streak  in NASCAR's  top racing circuit on
 Sunday  by taking  the checkered flag for  the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix
 International  Raceway. It  was Edwards' 20th career win in the series but his
 first  since March 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is the site of next
 weekend's race.
 
 The  Roush  Fenway Racing  driver had  been without  a victory  in the last 70
 Sprint Cup races., matching the longest of his career. He also was 0-70 before
 that streak concluded in the fall event at Phoenix in November 2010.
 
 After  his cool-down lap, Edwards performed his long-awaited backflip from his
 No.  99  Ford at the  start/finish line and then  headed to the grandstands to
 celebrate with the race fans.
 
 "To  be  in victory lane this  early in the season,  to have a car like we had
 today  is really,  really great,"  Edwards said.  "This win  feels as  good or
 better than any win I've ever had, so I'm very excited about it."
 
 Dale  Earnhardt Jr. held  the lead before a late-race round of pit stops under
 caution.  Edwards  beat Earnhardt out  of the pits and  took over the top spot
 with 78 laps remaining.
 
 During  the  restart, Edwards  pulled away  when Earnhardt  spun his tires and
 allowed  Jimmie Johnson, who  won the Daytona 500 one week ago, to slip by and
 take second. Edwards conserved enough fuel to take him to the finish.
 
 An  accident involving  Ken Schrader in the closing laps set up a green-white-
 checkered  finish.  Brad Keselowski,  the  defending  series champion,  pushed
 Edwards  from behind  on  the restart,  which helped  Edwards  pull away  from
 Johnson.
 
 "The first thing that came to my mind is now if we win it, we've really earned
 it,  because we did  have a great pit crew and great pit strategy today," said
 Edwards,  who led  a race-high 122 laps on this relatively flat one-mile oval.
 "I  felt pretty  good with two or three  laps to go that we were going to walk
 away  with that  race, and when the  caution came out I said, 'okay, now we're
 going to have to earn it.'
 
 "It made me not real nervous, but it made me really buckle down and work hard.
 A heart rate monitor on me would have been pretty interesting probably at that
 point, because I knew it was going to be tough."
 
 With new crew chief Jimmy Fennig, Edwards had a horrible Speedweeks at Daytona
 International  Speedway this past month. He wrecked during the Daytona 500 and
 the  twin-qualifiers.  He also crashed in  two separate practices and during a
 test  session  there in January. Edwards  finished 33rd in last week's season-
 opener.
 
 Team  owner Jack Roush paired Fennig with Edwards after Edwards struggled last
 season,  failing  to make  the  Chase  for  the  Sprint Cup  championship  and
 finishing  15th in  the point standings. He  ended the 2011 season in a points
 tie with champion Tony Stewart.
 
 "When we asked Jimmy if he would take Carl and take me for another year and do
 this  thing, he had  his requirements," Roush said. "He wanted to change a few
 things,  and  he didn't want  to see as  much of me  as I'd shown to (Edwards'
 previous crew chief) Bob (Osborne)."
 
 While  Edwards held  a sizeable  lead  over the  field during  the final  lap,
 fourth-place  runner Denny Hamlin, who won last year's spring race at Phoenix,
 dove  down onto  the apron of the track  coming out of turn 4 and attempted to
 pass  Johnson and  Keselowski for position. Johnson edged Hamlin to the finish
 line by just inches for second place.
 
 "Denny got a huge run, cut the corner down there and cleared us both," Johnson
 said.  "But  I felt like  I still had  a chance if I  just hung on the outside
 around turns 3 and 4, and I was able to do that and just kind of beat him back
 to the finish."
 
 Hamlin  and his  Joe Gibbs Racing teammate,  Kyle Busch, had to start from the
 rear  of  the field due to  engine changes. Both drivers experienced unrelated
 problems with the motors on their Toyotas following Saturday's final practice.
 Busch qualified fourth and Hamlin eighth on Friday.
 
 "We overachieved a ton today," Hamlin said after his third-place run. "I think
 we didn't run as good as I hoped, but we finished better than I imagined after
 about halfway through today's race."
 
 Keselowski finished fourth, and Earnhardt was fifth.
 
 Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton completed the
 top-10.
 
 Danica  Patrick finished 39th after being involved in a hard crash on lap 185.
 Patrick,  who was running on the lead lap in 26th at the time of her incident,
 blew a right-front tire coming out of turn 4 and slammed into the outside wall
 before dropping down the track and collecting David Ragan. She was not injured
 but parts and pieces from her car were littered throughout the frontstretch.
 
 "Whenever  those  right-front (tires) go,  these cars always hit hard, because
 you  hit it  straight on instead of  broadside," Patrick said. "It took a hard
 hit both sides, and I'm fine."
 
 Patrick  began  her rookie  season in Sprint  Cup by starting  on the pole and
 finishing eighth in the Daytona 500.
 
 After  the second  race of the season, Johnson, the five-time series champion,
 holds  an eight-point lead over Earnhardt and Keselowski. Patrick dropped from
 eighth to 22nd in the standings.
 
 "For me, it just sucks to lose the points," she said.
 
 03/03 20:57:17 ET

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