Carl Edwards wins Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Speedway

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Carl Edwards avoided tire issues that hampered his teammates and took off on the final restart to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Starting on the pole for the second straight week, Edwards led 276 of 500 laps in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota en route to his first victory of the season and fourth on the half-mile oval. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, followed by Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Trevor Bayne.

Edwards’ flawless day contrasted the right-front tire problems endured by teammates Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin after all of them started in the top five.

Busch, the defending series champion and points leader, had trouble throughout the race. He exited after his car smacked the wall on Lap 259 and sustained heavy damage, failing to finish a race for the first time since June at Michigan.

“I just kept getting tighter in the long run — not sure why that was,” Busch said of the handling.

For one day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the second most popular guy at a NASCAR race.

That’s what happens when the race is in Tennessee and former Volunteers great and Super Bowl champion quarterback Peyton Manning is in the house. Manning was a guest of the NASCAR driver for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race.

The five-time NFL MVP got big cheers when he was introduced at the prerace drivers meeting and was understandably in demand while making his way around the Bristol Motor Speedway infield.

Fans who normally crowd behind Earnhardt’s hauler seemed more focused on Manning as they screamed and shoved items at him to autograph. One admirer even yelled at the recently retired champion to return to Rocky Top as a coach.