Joe Gibbs Racing all smiles despite bittersweet ending at Phoenix
Joe Gibbs Racing did everything a team could do but win the Good Sam 500 on a beautiful Arizona Sunday afternoon. JGR put all four of its cars into the top seven in the race, with Carl Edwards finishing second to Kevin Harvick in the by just 0.010 seconds in the closest finish in history at Phoenix International Raceway.
It was a bittersweet finish for the team. Edwards and Harvick waged an epic battle on the green-white-checkered finish, but in the end, Edwards came up just short as Harvick won his record eighth race at PIR.
Edwards’ teammates were in the mix, too, with Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin finishing third and pole-winner Kyle Busch leading 75 laps en route to a fourth-place finish. Matt Kenseth finished a respectable seventh, making it a good day overall for JGR, but not a great one, as victory eluded them by the blink of an eye.
"I went to the bottom and I thought, I’m going to move him, but I didn’t want to wreck him," said Edwards of his two-lap shootout with Harvick. "Those guys were in their spot. So I moved him, and it was a drag race and we just lost it.
"If we would’ve had one more lap, I could have passed him clean, but it just wasn’t going to work without bumping him," said Edwards. "So I decided to hit him as hard as I did. I really didn’t want to wreck him, but I thought I moved him enough to get by, but that’s just racing."
A caution on Lap 308 put Edwards in position to win. During the yellow, Harvick and second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed on track, while Edwards came in for two tires. The fresh rubber gave Edwards a legitimate shot to win and he came oh-so-close.
"Before that final caution, we didn’t have an opportunity," said Edwards. "This is going to be a tough one to swallow, but it really was a lot of fun."
Hamlin, the third-place finisher, had a bird’s-eye view of the Edwards-Harvick battle.
“I was actually rooting on Carl going, ‘Get him.’ But, we’ve been on the other side of that photo finish,” said Hamlin. “Awesome that this rules package creates this kind of racing and some of the finishes that we’ve seen so far this year.”
Busch, the only driver to finish in the top five in all four races this season, was less sanguine about his day.
“You could be happy with top-five and you could be happy with running up front and doing those things,” said Busch. “Those are the things you’re supposed to do, but ultimately we’ve got to get to victory lane. We’re close. We’ll see if we can hit one here on the west coast swing, maybe next week in California, and put ourselves in.”