Published January 30, 2017
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) After the rain, Carl Edwards will be racing for a championship in NASCAR's season finale.
Jimmie Johnson was already locked into one of the title-contending spots at Homestead.
So that leaves two spots for the final four in the deciding Sprint Cup race Nov. 20. And there are six drivers - half of them Edwards' teammates with Joe Gibbs Racing -with one more chance to claim them next Sunday at Phoenix.
Edwards got the victory he so desperately needed to advance when he won a rain-shortened race at Texas. It was cut by 41 laps because of rain late Sunday night after the start was delayed nearly six hours.
''I feel like this is what we needed to do. We were able to do that. There's a lot of pride in that,'' Edwards said. ''To be able to run like we did tonight, for the pit crew to perform the way they did, it's really great. I think it's a testament to the team that Coach Gibbs put together.''
Gibbs drivers Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin are still in contention for the final spots. They go to Phoenix third through fifth in the points standings, though separated by only two points.
''Next week will be super competitive,'' Gibbs said. ''For us and our guys, I know all three of them want this. They really want it bad.''
Team Penske driver Joey Logano, who led a race-high 178 laps at Texas before finishing second, is listed second in the points with a tiebreaker over Kyle Bush. Kenseth is only one point back, with Hamlin one behind him.
Kevin Harvick is sixth in points, 18 back, but goes to Phoenix where he won his track-record eighth race in March and has won six of the last eight.
''We will just go there and do what we always do and race as hard as we can,'' Harvick said.
If one of the remaining six contenders doesn't win at Phoenix, the final two spots will be determined by points.
Harvick and Kurt Busch, his Stewart-Haas teammate who is 34 points back in eighth, are both likely in the position of needing a victory at Phoenix for a title chance.
That is pretty much the situation Edwards faced when he got to Texas eighth in points among the drivers still eligible for the championship, a week after a cut tire and crash led to a 36th-place finish at Martinsville.
Winning a rain-shortened race provided a bit of vindication for Edwards.
Last year's race at Phoenix was delayed nearly seven hours as a series of storms passed through the area, and then once it started at night, it was called after 218 laps. Edwards finished fifth, leaving him five points out of the final spot for the Chase finale.
''This rain was a lot more welcome than that rain,'' Edwards said. ''That was frustrating.''
Edwards took the lead on lap 258 after beating Martin Truex Jr. off pit road, and led the rest of the way.
Light rain was already falling and plenty more was on the radar around the track, when the caution came out with 45 laps remaining of the originally scheduled 334-lap race.
All cars were brought to pit road four laps later, and it was only a few more minutes before NASCAR declared the race over and official after 293 laps. It could have taken two hours or more to dry to track, even though it ended up being only a brief shower.
Some other things from Texas:
DRIVE FOR FIVE SHORT: Johnson had won the previous four fall races at Texas, but finished 11th after starting 19th.
LONG GAP: Edwards had last won at Texas in 2008, when he swept both Cup races at the track. Those were among his nine wins overall that season when he finished second in points. Three years later, Edwards was the season runner-up again even though he matched Tony Stewart for the most points. Stewart won the championship on a tiebreaker since he had five wins to Edwards' one.
UP NEXT: An elimination race Sunday at Phoenix. Assuming Harvick wins again, the playoff picture is realistically five drivers racing for the final slot in the finale.