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March 4, 2013

Edwards ends long drought at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carl Edwards pulled away on a late start to snap a 70-race winless streak Sunday, the second long drought he’s ended at Phoenix International Raceway.

Edwards broke the longest slump of his career by winning at Phoenix in 2010. He won for the first time since Las Vegas in 2011 by leading the final 78 laps on the 312-mile race around PIR’s odd-shaped oval.

Coming off a miserable week at Daytona, where he wrecked five cars, Edwards got a push from defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski on the restart with two laps left. He pulled away to win the first non-restrictor-plate race with NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car.

Edwards did his celebratory backflip for the first time in nearly two years, then went into the stands to celebrate with the fans — just like he did after his last win at PIR.

Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson was second by inches and Denny Hamlin finished third with a bold pass on the apron during the final lap. Keselowski was fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended up fifth.

The last race at Phoenix, in November, set up Keselowski for his first Sprint Cup title after Johnson blew a tire. It also featured quite a sideshow.

A running feud between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon boiled over late in the race, setting off a brawl in the pits and Bowyer on a WWE-style dash to Gordon’s hauler.

The drivers tried to downplay the confrontation after arriving in the desert this week, but it’s been hard to avoid, with video of the scrap-and-dash being shown all over in promos for the race and in replays.

The only running this time was Ryan Newman: across the track and away from his car after it blew a right-front tire for the second time in 140 laps.

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