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Carl Ewards races to first victory for new JGR team
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 05 - 2015

CONCORD, N.C. — Even a master strategist like Joe Gibbs wasn't sure his team made the right call.

The Super Bowl-winning coach, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, had followed driver Denny Hamlin who was on top down the stretch in the Coca-Cola 600.

But when Hamlin went to the pits to fix a wheel vibration, Gibbs saw team newcomer Carl Edwards was out front as his fuel was dwindling down.

“I turned around with nine to go and said: ‘We can't make this, can we?'” Gibbs said.

Yes, they could. Edwards outlasted Greg Biffle over the final 20 laps to win the Coca-Cola 600 and take his first victory since joining JGR this season.

“I just had this feeling that we were gearing up for some really great stuff,” Edwards said. “I guess for me, it's relief because I don't have to worry about the points.”

Edwards is the third Gibbs racer with a victory this season, joining Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin as likely entrants for the 10-race, end-of-the-season championship chase.

Still, it took crew chief Darian Grubb's call to pit earlier than most and stay out on the track while others scrambled to tank up and get fresh tires.

“We were not going to win this race on pure speed. That was obvious the first 550 miles or so,” Edwards said. “So (Grubb) put us in a position to win. Those guys were definitely fast and Darian beat them to it.”

Edwards hadn't won in 31 races since June 2014 at Sonoma. He ended his long association with Roush Fenway Racing this past offseason, hoping for bigger things with JGR. He got it at Charlotte Motor Speedway after shuffling in front as most of his competitors needed green-flag pit stops close to the end. Most figured Edwards would have to stop, too, but he remained on the track and cruised to his first victory at Charlotte.

Greg Biffle was second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., pole-sitter Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr., who had his 11th top-10 finish in 12 events this season.

Edwards parked his car, did his signature back flip and rushed into the waiting arms of his crew, all jumping around in celebration. He climbed into the stands to grab the checkered flag before heading to victory lane.
The win gave JGR a Charlotte sweep after Denny Hamlin won the All-Star Race on May 16th. Hamlin finished eighth. The fourth Joe Gibbs racer, new father Kyle Busch, was 11th in his first points race since breaking his right leg and left in a crash at Daytona three months ago. — AP


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