Edwards grabs share of Chase for the Sprint Cup championship lead

Sunday, October 2, 2011 | 6:29 p.m. CDT
Carl Edwards makes a pit stop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at International Speedway.

DOVER, Del. — Carl Edwards moved into a tie for first place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship after a third-place finish Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

Kurt Busch won the race, holding off second-place finisher Jimmie Johnson and Edwards at the finish.

Edwards, a Columbia native, and Kevin Harvick share the points lead after three rounds. Harvick is seeded first because of a tiebreaker. Round 4 of the Chase is at Kansas Speedway.

Busch pulled away from Johnson after a late restart to win his second race of the season. He moved from ninth to fourth in the standings, only nine points out of first.

Tony Stewart, who lost the points lead he built after winning the first two Chase races by finishing 25th Sunday, now holds third in the standings.

Chase drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch finished fifth and sixth Sunday. Harvick was 10th.

Only 15 points separate the top eight drivers. The 400-mile race only tightened the leaderboard and no driver has emerged as clear-cut favorite.

Edwards, who won the Dover Nationwide race on Saturday, dominated most of Sunday's race until a pit road speeding penalty cost him a lap. Without that infraction, Edwards just might have won the race and made it a weekend sweep.

"I definitely took myself out of position to fight for the win by doing that,' Edwards said. "It's something that's painful."

Johnson's reign was considered by some to be on the ropes after finishing 10th and 18th in the first two Chase races. But his strong finish on a track where he usually dominates moved him into fifth only 13 points behind the leaders with seven races remaining.

"Are we out of this?" said Johnson, rubbing his chin with a smile.

Not yet. Not by a long shot.

Non-Chase drivers filled four of the top-10 spots. Kasey Kahne was fourth, AJ Allmendinger was seventh, Clint Bowyer eighth, and Marcos Ambrose ninth.

Busch made his move off the final restart with 43 laps, leaving Johnson behind. Johnson led a race-high 157 laps.

"Giving up a win by not getting a good restart, I'll think about it tonight," Johnson said. "But big-picture wise, we'll take it."

The winning move against Johnson made the victory more meaningful for Busch. Two of the sport's top drivers have developed a long-simmering rivalry over the years. It reached a boiling part at Richmond when Busch called Johnson a "five-time chump."

"To beat your arch nemesis, that's just icing on the cake. That's pretty sweet," Busch said.

Busch opened the Chase with a solid sixth at Chicagoland Speedway, but struggled at New Hampshire and finished 22nd. He No. 22 Dodge started second at Dover and he carried that over into Victory Lane — and up the standings.

Busch, the 2004 champion, won his 24th career race and for the first time at Dover.

"We've got such a long way to go in this Chase," Busch said. "That's what we're really focused on."

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