(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
While the biggest surprise of the year was in Victory Lane, the biggest disappointment was standing on pit road trying to console himself with his best finish of this baffling season, second.
"We've just got to rest on the fact that we're stronger now than we've been all year," Carl Edwards told the TV audience -- and himself -- after his runner-up finish in Sunday's Pocono 500.
While Tony Stewart was still celebrating, and being celebrated, as the first owner-driver to win a Cup race in 11 years, Edwards faced a group of reporters and looked again for the bright side.
"The cool part about it is, it kind of felt like we were in the form that we were in at the end of last season," he said.
That was something of a reach for the driver who'd won a series-high nine races last year, including three of the last four, and made himself the consensus pick of several media panels to win this year's Sprint Cup going away and stop Jimmie Johnson's run on titles at three straight.
"We ran really well; I could pass people," Edwards said, as though that were a fading memory.
"I felt like if Tony and I had to race there at the end, I felt really good about my chances of being able to just win the race on speed."
But it wasn't a race at the end, even with the newly instituted double-file restarts from caution periods.
It was a fuel mileage marathon, with Stewart himself running maybe three-quarters throttle up front and saving gas -- and nobody behind him, including Edwards, trying a rundown because everybody was in the same shape, iffy on fuel mileage.
Johnson, who'd had to come from the back after a pit-violation penalty, ran out of gas after challenging Edwards for second, and wound up finishing seventh.
Stewart increased his points lead to 71 over Jeff Gordon, who finished fourth in Sunday's fuel maneuvering.
Edwards leapt five positions in the standings, from 11th to sixth, and tried to console himself with that, too.
The points are "really what it boils down to," he said. "All of this is great, but you've got to keep your pride in check and now that the real race is with 10 [races in the Chase] to go.
"So I definitely take something good out of this."
Nationwide Series: Busch a true-life guitar hero
Now you didn't think Kyle Busch was just going to dominate and win a race and let it go at that, did you? Break the Jerry Punch jinx and celebrate politely? Peacefully become the youngest driver (24) ever to reach 25 wins in NASCAR's second-tier series?
First he literally set the track on fire with an especially intense burnout at Nashville Superspeedway.
Then he became the first NASCAR driver in memory to smash his trophy in Victory Lane. Rock-star style, he slammed down a hand-painted Gibson Les Paul guitar, intending to break it up so members of his pit crew could each take home a piece.
Referring to predecessors who've won the (usually) coveted Gibson, Busch told reporters at the track, "All them sorry saps, they take it home in one piece."
When the solid-body guitar didn't break up much, Busch promised reporters that "We'll go back to the shop and cut it up," so each crewman can have a piece -- sort of like birthday cake?
Well, at least he seemed to mean well.
Besides, he'd never won at Nashville and had an average finish there of 17th.
Worse, going into Saturday night's race, he'd led the most laps in the previous five straight Nationwide events but had won but one of them, at Richmond, Va., on May 1.
He blamed the run of disappointments on ESPN play-by-play announcer Dr. Jerry Punch's focusing late in each race on his dominance, race after race, and jinxing him.
"Quit it, Jerry," he admonished before the start at Nashville. "Don't even put the camera on me."
ESPN and Punch refused to back off, to "prove," Punch said, that "I'm not the jinx." Punch poured it on, pointing out that this was the sixth straight Nationwide race in which Busch had led the most laps -- this time 173 of the 225.
After winning anyway, Busch left the track surface ablaze with his burnout, climbed out for his customary bow to the crowd -- which booed him furiously for his effort -- and went to Victory Lane for his most outrageous celebration yet.
Camping World Truck Series: Who's leading this week?
Maybe it's as Ron Hornaday Jr. said: "Nobody wants to lead the points in the Camping World Truck Series."
Hornaday had just lost the lead to Matt Crafton in Friday night's Truck race when he made that observation to reporters at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hornaday was wryly joking, but Crafton wasn't when he said, "Right now I'd give up the points lead to be where Todd Bodine is."
Bodine was in Victory Lane while Crafton had to settle for "without a doubt [his] most disappointing second-place finish ever." Crafton had been closing steadily on Bodine for the last 10 laps, but ran out of time -- and hope that Bodine would run out of fuel.
If Crafton really doesn't want it, then Bodine is back on the move in the standings, jumping two places to fourth, 66 points behind Crafton, with the win.
Bodine opted for tires but no fuel on his final pit stop, and cut it close on gas at the finish, for a win that set several records: It was his fifth Truck win at Texas and his 10th on a 1.5-mile track. Bodine became the first Truck driver to win five times at any venue on the tour.
Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Racing Resources SaysSprint Cup Series
- Tony Stewart won the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. He started first but dropped to the rear under penalty because he went to a backup car after crashing in Saturday practice. This is the fourth time a driver started at the rear and won in 2009. Six of the past eight races have been won from the front-row starting positions at Pocono.
- Stewart became the ninth different winner in 14 races this season, joining Kyle Busch (3), Mark Martin (2), Jimmie Johnson (2) and Matt Kenseth (2), plus Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and David Reutimann with one each.
- Stewart became the first owner-driver to win since Ricky Rudd at Martinsville in September 1998. Geoff Bodine was the last owner-driver to win at Pocono, in July 1994.
- Stewart scored his 34th career win in his 370th start. He tied Mark Martin and Bobby Isaac for 17th on NASCAR's all-time wins list. Stewart scored his second victory in 21 races at Pocono. His last Pocono win came in June 2003. He has 15 top-10 finishes in his 21 races at Pocono, including the last two.
- This is the first victory for Stewart/Haas Racing.
- Stewart remained the points leader by 71 over Jeff Gordon. Stewart led two times for 39 laps, including the final 37. He scored his 10th top-10 finish in 2009, the most by any driver. He has scored top-5 finishes in seven of his past nine races.
- A car with the No. 14 has won 27 times in the Cup series by five different drivers: Tony Stewart, Bobby Allison, Fonty Flock, Hershel McGriff and Jim Paschal. The last time a driver won in the No. 14 was Allison at Montgomery Speedway in December 1968.
- Thirty-one of Stewart's 34 victories have come in the month of June or later in the season.
- Steve Letarte made his 125th start as Jeff Gordon's crew chief. Gordon finished fourth, giving Letarte his 54th top-5 finish (43 percent).
- Jimmie Johnson (seventh) has led in 12 of the 14 races this season, more than any other driver.
- Joey Logano (23rd) was the highest-finishing rookie of the three rookies in the race.
- This was the seventh victory for Chevrolet in 2009. Toyota has four wins, Ford has two and Dodge has one.
- The top 10 consisted of six Chevrolets, two Toyotas, one Ford and one Dodge.
- Kyle Busch won the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. Busch won from the first-place starting position, joining Reed Sorenson (March 2005) as the only two drivers to win from the pole in 17 races at Nashville.
- Busch scored his fourth Nationwide win in 13 races this season, the most by any driver. It was his 25th series victory in his 151st race. He is the youngest driver to 25 victories (24 years, 1 month, 4 days).
- This marked Busch's 51st combined NASCAR victory, giving him sole possession of 11th all-time. He passed Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson and Greg Biffle.
- Busch posted his first victory at Nashville in his eighth race here. He became the 13th different winner in 17 races at Nashville. He is the first driver to lead at the halfway point and win in the past six races at Nashville.
- Brad Keselowski (second) extended a streak of 10 consecutive top-15 finishes that began at Bristol. Keselowski finished 22nd, 27th and 27th in the first three races of the season before posting his first top-15 finish of the season at Bristol (12th).
- This was the second Joe Gibbs Racing victory at Nashville, both in 2009. It was Gibbs' 33rd series victory and the 13th by Busch in 32 starts with Gibbs.
- Toyota posted its fifth win in 13 races in 2009. Chevrolet and Ford have four each.
- Busch led four times for 173 laps, including the final 24 laps. He has led 1,244 laps this season, the most among all drivers. He has led the most laps in the past six series races.
- Busch entered the race leading the standings by 40 points over Carl Edwards. Edwards finished third. Busch now leads the points by 65 over Edwards.
- Edwards (third) has finished second, third, 10th, fifth and third in the past five races.
- Jason Leffler (fifth) has scored 12 straight top-15 finishes, extending a streak that began at California in February. Leffler has finished in the top 10 in the past eight races, extending a streak that began at Nashville in April. This is the longest current streak.
- Michael McDowell (eighth) was the highest-finishing rookie of the year contender.
- Richard Childress Racing made its 700th series start at Nashville. Stephen Leicht finished sixth and Sean Caisse finished 29th.
- The top 10 consisted of four Chevrolets, two Fords and four Toyotas.
- Todd Bodine won the WinStar World Casino 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Bodine scored his 17th career win in his 123rd start, moving into a tie with Ted Musgrave for fifth all-time.
- Bodine scored his fifth series win at Texas in his 10th race there. He became the first driver in series history to win five races at a single track.
- Bodine scored his second win of 2009; he joins Kyle Busch as only the second repeat winner of the season. Bodine posted his 10th win on 1.5-mile tracks, the most of all drivers. He led twice for 52 laps, including the final 43.
- Germain Racing scored its 18th series victory and sixth at Texas.
- Toyota scored its sixth series victory at Texas and sixth win of 2009.
- The two cautions in the race set a track record for the fewest number of cautions in a Texas race; the old record of three cautions happened three times. The 10 laps of caution set a track record for the fewest number of caution laps in a Truck race at Texas, breaking the record of 12 laps set in June 2004.
- The race's average speed of 152.282 mph set a track record, breaking the old mark of 148.959 mph set in June 2004.
- Matt Crafton, who finished second, took over the points lead for the first time in his 205-race career.
- Ron Hornaday (19th) dropped to second in the points, 30 behind Crafton.
- Colin Braun (third) posted his best finish of the season.
- Pole-winner Johnny Sauter finished sixth, the best of the five rookie of the year contenders in the race.
- Jason White (eighth), who turned 30 on race day, posted his third top-10 finish in the past four races.
- Taylor Malsam (ninth) posted his third top 10 of 2009 and sixth straight top-15 finish.
- The top 10 consisted of five Toyotas, two Chevrolets, two Fords and a Dodge.