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Edwards recovers to win Nationwide race in Atlanta

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edwards-busch-atlanta_0.jpg By Charles Odum, AP
Septembr 6, 2011

HAMPTON, GA — Carl Edwards looked dominant when he led the first 43 laps from the pole.

He looked even stronger when he came back to win from the back of the lead lap.

Edwards recovered after a pit-stop penalty early in the race and held off Kyle Busch to win the Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

Edwards was penalized for having an air hose move out of his team’s allotted space during a pit stop. He had to move from the lead to 15th at the rear of the lead lap.

He said he wasn’t about to criticize his pit crew because he has had his share of pit-row mistakes that led to penalties.

“Most of the ones I’ve had lately were when I sped,” Edwards said. “When I heard (about the penalty), I thought I had sped again.”

Edwards acknowledged having to move from the lead to 15th at first “kind of takes the wind off your sails.”

He said he tried to turn the penalty into a positive.

“I just tried to look at it as a challenge and something fun,” he said.

“When my car went back in the field I think I learned more about my car than when I was up front.”

Crew chief Mike Beam said “it was nerve-racking there for a while” after the penalty.

“Luckily, there were only about 14 cars on the lead lap, so I knew we had enough time to make it up,” Beam said. “I just thought if we kept our heads straight we could work back to the front.

“Carl was great. The engine was great. It was fun.”

Edwards quickly moved his way through the pack and finished leading 101 of the 195 laps.

Edwards won a battle with Kevin Harvick for the lead after the sixth caution ended with 19 laps remaining.

Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came out of the restart in sixth but quickly moved up, passing Busch for second before finishing third.

“There at the end it was fun racing with Kyle and Kevin,” Stenhouse said. “I wish we could have had a little more for Carl, but it was a good weekend.”

Stenhouse leads Elliott Sadler, who finished 10th, by 13 points.

Harvick finished fourth and Kasey Kahne was fifth after winning the pole for Sunday night’s Sprint Cup race.

Edwards has 35 career Nationwide victories, two in Atlanta.

“It’s a big win for us,” Edwards said. “I can’t believe we won the pole and the race.”

Edwards and Busch were left with contrasting opinions of the track and similarly differing expectations for Sunday’s race.

Busch said the track didn’t “widen out” as he normally expects because the top of the track was too slippery.

“I hate to say it, I think we’re predicting the future for tomorrow,” Busch said. “It’s going to be a crash fest at the bottom (of the track). There’s just not enough grip at the top anymore. … It was all about how you could get to the bottom of the racetrack.

“It’s kind of disappointing, but it is what it is.”

Edwards praised the worn track as ideal.

“It’s just a fun race. I love this racetrack,” said Edwards, who celebrated with his trademark backflip off his car.

“Whatever it is about this racetrack that makes it so fun to drive, I wish we could figure out a way to engineer it into other racetracks.

“I think we’re going to have just as good racing tomorrow.”

Edwards’ win was his sixth of the season and 35th of his career on the Nationwide Series. He has 19 top-10 finishes this year.

Brad Keselowski, back in the Nationwide series for the first time since breaking his left ankle in an Aug. 3 crash while testing at Road Atlanta, finished seventh. He has won two Cup races since the injury.

Reed Sorenson, third in points, and Trevor Bayne were knocked both out of the race in a collision with 25 laps to go. Sorenson was bumped by his teammate, Justin Allgaier, to cause the wreck.

Allgaier finished sixth and said he would apologize to Sorenson.

There were 21 lead changes, one away from the race record.

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