The backflip is back.
Carl Edwards started on the pole, led 101 laps and fought back from an early stop-and-go penalty to win the Great Clips 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was his first NASCAR Nationwide win at the speedway since 2005, the career-making weekend that saw Edwards win both his first career Nationwide and Cup Series races.
"I can't believe we got both the pole and the win," Edwards said. "That was one heck of a race. That was as hard as we could race out there. It was a lot of fun. This track is as good as it gets. I can't wait until tomorrow."
After finishing second, Kyle Busch was less enthusiastic about the night's events. He complained that the track didn't "widen out" like he expected it to, making passing difficult.
"I hate to say it, but I think we're predicting tomorrow," Busch said. "It's gonna be a crash-fest to the bottom (of the track)."
But maybe it's all about perspective. Just as Busch was predicting doom and gloom, Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was grinning ear to ear after his third-place finish on a track he compared to "any sprint car track I've ever ran on."
"I think that's one of the reasons I like the place," Stenhouse Jr. said. "You can run move all over the place, and you're sliding no matter what. At those other race tracks, you can slide, but not everybody is sliding so it doesn't pay off. This race track's a lot of fun, man ... it's old and it wears the tires out and it's rough, and that's my kind of race track. I like to get up on the wheel and drive it hard."
And there was plenty of good hard driving. After leading the first 43 laps, Edwards was assessed a stop-and-go penalty after leaving the pits with an air hose still attached. He dropped as low as 17th before threading his way back through the field.
In the meantime, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier all took turns swapping the lead. Edwards retook the lead in the pits on lap 177 and never looked back despite a mounting challenge from Busch over the final circuits.
"It was nerve-wracking for a while," winning crew chief Mike Beam said. "But we knew we had plenty of time to make it up. Luckily the car was pretty good in traffic, but you never know what's going to happen when you get in dirty air. Luckily it worked out."
The racing action continues Sunday with the AdvoCare 500. Great seats are still available starting at $19 for students and $39 for adults. For tickets or more information call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.