By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
AVONDALE, Ariz.-The number is 70 - and no longer counting.
Carl Edwards broke a winless streak that had reached 70 races, beating Jimmie Johnson to the checkered flag in a green-white-checkered-flag finish in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Edwards' 20th career victory was his first since Las Vegas in March 2011. Behind Edwards and Johnson, Denny Hamlin ran third, followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series reigning champion Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who lost his winning chances when he spun his tires on the penultimate restart.
Edwards led 67 straight green-flag laps after a restart on Lap 243, but Ken Schrader's crash on Lap 309 sent the race to overtime and gave the crew chiefs of the leading cars nervous moments as they tried to recalculate fuel mileage.
The top 14 cars stayed out for a restart on Lap 315, and Edwards had enough gas to complete two laps and win the race.
Danica Patrick's hard crash on Lap 185 caused the sixth caution of the race. The right front tire on Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet SS exploded without warning as the car rolled through Turn 4. The car bounced off the outside wall into the path of David Ragan's Ford.
The resulting collision ripped the driver's-side door off Patrick's car and knocked the protective foam out of the door frame. Patrick walked away from the wreck but ended the day in 39th place.
That caution, however, proved a boon to her former car owner, Earnhardt, who was first off pit road for a restart on Lap 194. Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevy took a liking to the clean air and remained on point, pacing teammate Johnson as the Hendrick Motorsports pair opened a one-second lead over Matt Kenseth in third.
Forty laps into the green-flag, Earnhardt had widened his edge over Johnson to .928 seconds before the yellow flag flew on Lap 236 for David Gilliland's hard contact with the outside wall in Turn 1, the result of another blown right front tire.
That caution, the seventh of the race, put Kyle Busch back on the lead lap. Busch went a lap down after spinning into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 48 and persevered until he was awarded a free pass as the highest-scored lapped car when Gilliland wrecked.
Busch had started at the rear of the field because of an eleventh-hour engine change Sunday morning. The engine in his No. 18 Camry suffered a part failure during warmup, the result of a reassembly error.