By JENNA FRYER
2014-03-17 10:42 AM
BRISTOL, Tennessee (AP) -- Carl Edwards claimed a rain-soaked NASCAR win Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where weather wreaked havoc on yet another Sprint Cup race this season.
The rain caused two delays lasting more than five hours -- one that delayed the start Sunday by almost two hours, and another that stopped the race for 3 hours, 18 minutes.
Much like the season-opening Daytona 500, which was stopped by rain for almost six hours, the threat of more bad weather bringing a sudden halt to the race forced the drivers to go hard every single lap.
So when a caution with 77 laps remaining sent most of the field to pit road, Edwards' crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, made the call to leave his driver on the track. The move gave Edwards the lead on the restart with 70 laps remaining.
He had no trouble pulling out to an easy lead and had victory in sight when the yellow caution lights came on with two laps remaining.
No one was sure what the caution was for at the time. NASCAR said after the race that a lights malfunction triggered the final caution and officials made it a full caution "because operation of the lights was comprised."
After the caution lights came on, the rain started again and NASCAR had no choice but to declare the race over.
Edwards led Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. across the finish line. Aric Almirola from Richard Petty Motorsports was third, giving Ford drivers a sweep of the top three spots.
Tony Stewart salvaged a horrific start to the weekend -- he qualified 37th -- by finishing a season-best fourth.
Marcos Ambrose was fifth as both of RPM's drivers finished inside the top five.
Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin was sixth in the highest-finishing Toyota and was followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne. Brian Vickers was ninth and rookie Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10.
After the start was delayed, the drivers made it to Lap 124 before the race was stopped by rain again. The second stoppage pushed the race into evening and under the lights on the track.
Matt Kenseth was the leader when the race resumed following the lengthy rain delay. He was passed by Kurt Busch but was holding second and in traffic when caution came out because Danica Patrick spun Cole Whitt.
Kenseth was hit from behind as he slowed down by Timmy Hill, who came around the track at a considerably higher speed. He had to pit for repairs and dropped to 24th -- 10 seconds behind the leader.
"This place, things happen real quick," Hill said. "I saw (Whitt) spin, by the time I got communication, it was too late. Everybody was checking up. I ran into the back (Kenseth). I had no reaction time."
Kenseth recovered and was back with the leaders later in the race, only to hit the wall late. He finished 13th.