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Columbia Missourian

Edwards edged out of Sprint Cup victory at Darlington

By The Associated Press
May 7, 2011 | 11:14 p.m. CDT

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Regan Smith moved in front on a caution nine laps from the end and survived a green-white-checkered finish to win the Southern 500 for his first Sprint Cup victory Saturday night.

Smith held off Carl Edwards over the final two laps at Darlington Raceway in a race that turned ugly late when Kyle Busch tangled with Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer to set up the overtime finish.

Sprint Cup leaders

Top 12 in Points:

1. C. Edwards, 378
2. J. Johnson, 355
3. Ky. Busch, 339
4. D. Earnhardt Jr., 331
5. K. Harvick, 328
6. R. Newman, 317
7. T. Stewart, 313
8. Ku. Busch, 306
9. C. Bowyer, 297
10. M. Kenseth, 295
11. A. Allmendinger, 287
12. G. Biffle, 286.

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Edwards appeared to be cruising to his first Darlington victory with 10 laps remaining in what had been about 490 miles of relatively calm racing. Instead, things changed when Jeff Burton brought out the 10th and final caution, setting up a restart with five laps left and many of NASCAR's best not far from the lead.

Busch, Harvick and Bowyer wound up three-wide in a space where that doesn't work and Bowyer was sent sprawling into the interior wall. As cars spun out behind, Busch veered down the track and sent Harvick spinning.

Smith bobbled slightly on the final lap, but regained control and took off for the victory. He was in tears in victory lane, winning for the first time in 105 Sprint Cup starts.

Edwards, a Columbia native, maintains the lead in the Sprint Cup point standings, 23 points ahead of second-place Jimmie Johnson, who finished 15th in Saturday's race.  

After the race, Harvick and Busch stared down each other from their cars as they entered the garage before a standoff that looked like it might erupt further. It finally ended when Busch bumped Harvick's car several times to make space to drive off.

Brad Keselowski finished third, pole-sitter Kasey Kahne was fourth and Ryan Newman fifth.