Carl Edwards strums the Gibson guitar he earned by winning the Nashville 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday. (Photo: Anne Marie Brooks/Special to NNSracing.com)
By Lee Montgomery
LEBANON, Tenn. - Carl Edwards returned to victory lane at Nashville Superspeedway for the first time since 2007 by winning Saturday's Nashville 300 Nationwide Series race.
Edwards had won three Nationwide races in a row in 2006-07 but went six races without winning again. His four Nashville victories are tops among all drivers at the 1.33-mile track.
"Was it 2007?" Edwards said. "That's a long time to run poorly somewhere. Seemed like every time we came we won for a little while. Was it three in a row? Then all of a sudden, we came here and really struggled. That's really trying on everybody.
"I have to give credit to (car owner) Jack Roush, to Ford, (engine builder) Doug Yates, (crew chief) Mike Beam, the guys at the shop. It looked like we were facing some insurmountable challenges, and they worked hard and got these cars better."
Saturday, Edwards was the best, leading five times for 148 laps in beating Kyle Busch and the Nationwide field. Edwards surged past Kyle Busch as the two engaged in a stirring duel for the victory with 35 laps to go.
Busch was gunning for a weekend sweep as he won Friday night's Camping World Truck Series race but came up short as his Toyota was "just not quite fast enough."
The victory was Edwards' second of the season and 31st of his career - tying him for fourth all-time with Jack Ingram.
Busch ended up second, with Brad Keselowski third and Joey Logano fourth as Sprint Cup regulars swept the top four spots in the Nationwide Series' first standalone race of the season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the first Nationwide regular in fifth and took over the points lead.
Edwards and Busch traded the lead three times and raced side by side for more than three laps not long after a restart with 44 laps to go.
"At the end of the race, I was pedaling for all I had," Edwards said. "I was kind of excited at the beginning of the race. I thought, 'Boy, we're going to run off with this thing. It's going to be easy.' Then at the end, that was white-knuckle. I was driving as hard as I can drive, racing him and Brad.
"In the end, it's better to have a race like that, but it was really nerve-wracking for me."
Edwards led Lap 189, with Busch coming back to led Lap 190. Edwards led Lap 191 and finally got clear of Busch, even as Brad Keselowski was challenging from third.
"I didn't quite finish that pass," Busch said. "He had a really fast car. We could keep up with him momentarily, but just not for the whole run. It was a good show right there, a little bit of racing back and forth.
"We put on a little bit of a show. Brad was right behind us and kind of lurking in the distance there."
In the end, both drivers agreed Edwards' No. 60 was simply the better car.
"Our Ford was just slightly better than his car, just slightly," Edwards said. "He's savvy enough of a racer, he knew how to keep me behind him and how to force the issue. He made it really hard on me, but he also gave me plenty of room. You can race a bunch of different ways out there, but that was a very clean race. That was really good. It was fun. I was really having a blast out there."