Despite a front row starting position, Edwards quickly found himself mired back in the field, fighting an ill-handling car in 20th position at lap 35 of the 272 lap race.
“I had a hint of (the wrong setup) in the first corner when we drove down,” said Edwards. “I was like, ‘man, this is not good.’ I thought maybe it would be better the next lap but it wasn’t so by the second lap I realized we were in trouble. That was the worst my car has felt in a race in a long time.”
Edwards, who had dropped as far back as 25th on Sunday, diagnosed the issue in post-race interviews.
“We had the wrong front suspension setting in the car. Bob and I together in practice prepared the wrong setup. They dropped the green and I realized we were in deep trouble. Bob made adjustments to the setup, bigger than we would normally make.”
A long stretch of green flag runs from lap 88 to 206 saw Edwards drop to one lap down as Jimmie Johnson set a blistering pace around the 1.5 mile tri-oval. The third caution of the day finally flew at lap 206 but Edwards did not receive the lucky dog and was unable to take the wave around, forcing him to restart as the first car one lap down in 18th.
Edwards was the beneficiary just 11 laps later, when Landon Cassill was turned by Regan Smith on the frontstretch. Edwards restarted as the last car on the lead lap in 17th, with 43 laps to go in regulation.
Debris in turn four brought out one of the two late race cautions, allowing Edwards to pit for four fresh tires and a slight wedge adjustment on the No. 99 machine.
“We were very fortunate with the late race caution and getting two tires and have a shot to run up there through the traffic,” said the Kansas native. “We were very, very fortunate. I am extremely grateful. I do not deserve to be sitting up here. We should have finished 15th or 20th. It all worked out in our favor.”
Edwards restarted 15th with 23 to go and was able to work his way up to 11th just before Jeff Gordon’s engine expired with 4 to go, bringing out the final caution and setting up the first and only attempt at a green-white-checkered.
Edwards picked up one spot under caution after pitting for just right side tires, placing him in 10th for the green-white-checkered restart.
Edwards, on fresh right side tires, worked his way up to sixth coming to the white flag and got around the points leader coming into today’s race, Kevin Harvick, for fifth.
“I feel grateful,” said an elated Edwards. “I cannot thank my guys enough for sticking with it and working hard all day. I cannot believe we finished fifth. It feels like a win. I just cannot believe from the way the day started to finish like that is spectacular.”
Edwards now leads the championship race over Harvick by just one point heading into Charlotte, where he won the All-Star race in May but has yet to score a victory in a points paying race.
“That place has been a little difficult for us. We have been very hit and miss there. I do feel like our run in the All-Star race and 600 earlier this year will be something we can build on. We have a baseline strategy with the setup and we will go use that and hopefully it will work out better.”