FORT WORTH, Texas - Don't tell Carl Edwards that NASCAR's new car is boring, not after he drove it to his series-best third win of the season.
Edwards dominated Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway, then rebuked claims made by second- and third-place finishers Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch that the Car of Tomorrow erased the excitement from the event.
'Let me state my position very clearly: I've heard people say that the races are boring, and people always want something to complain about if it's too hard to drive, you don't get enough side-by-side racing,' he said. 'It's not supposed to be easy, everyone. It's not supposed to be driving down the interstate.
'There are going to be people that are faster. We're going to have days when we can't keep up because the car is too hard to drive. Somebody's going to win. That's racing.'
Of course, Edwards might be biased.
He's proven to be unbeatable on intermediate tracks this season, winning at California, Las Vegas and now Texas. And he could have won at Atlanta had his motor not failed while leading.
His dominance has proven that the severe penalties his team drew after a failed inspection in Vegas won't derail his Roush Fenway Racing team. Edwards was docked 100 points and crew chief Bob Osborne was suspended six races because the lid was missing on the oil tank after the Vegas victory.
'It doesn't matter if we get penalized. We might get a 100-point penalty for something today,' Edwards said. 'It's not going to change what I do. I'm just going to do the best I can and our cars are really good. It does feel good to look in there and see the oil tank cover on the car, that's good.
'But this is what we do. We got out and try to win. The other stuff doesn't matter.'
That was evident as Edwards dominated Sunday, leading a race-high 123 laps. He built a lead of more than 7 seconds at one point, and it only evaporated with two late cautions that allowed Johnson and Busch a pair of chances to catch him.
Neither came close.
'He probably could have led however many laps there were today,' said Busch, the third-place finisher. 'He just didn't show his full hand. We knew he was pretty good.'
Edwards didn't dispute it, either. He nearly won the pole, settling for second when Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s late attempt nudged him to the second starting position, then paced both of Saturday's final practice sessions to cement himself as the driver to beat.
'That's the truth,' he said of Busch's assertion. 'I could go a lot faster today if I wanted to.'
It wasn't necessary as the No. 99 team won for the first time since the Las Vegas scandal that stripped Edwards of valuable points - the 100-point deduction knocked him out of the points lead, and NASCAR also seized the 10 bonus points he earned for the victory. In addition to his suspension, Osborne was fined $100,000.
As Edwards crossed the finish line Sunday, he dedicated the victory to Osborne, who was watching on TV back in North Carolina.
'This is for Bob Osborne sitting at home,' Edwards radioed his crew. 'Good job, guys.'
From Victory Lane, he defended his Vegas win and once again insisted the oil tank infraction played no part in his performance that day.
'The reason we won at Vegas is because of all the hard work that the guys at the shop and the engine department, it's not because of that oil tank lid,' he said. 'That's what it's about. We're driving. It's fun. It's fun when you get out of the car and your hands hurt from gripping the steering wheel. That's good.'
Johnson was second as Hendrick Motorsports remained winless through the first seven races of the season.
'I didn't have anything at the end for Carl,' Johnson said. 'The car is so dependent on aerodynamics that the guy in front has a major, major advantage. More than we've ever had before. We're all afraid to run side-by-side, and you can only get so close to the guy in front of you. My hands were full.'
Busch, winner of the Nationwide Series race Saturday, was strong early but had nothing for Edwards in the end and faded to third. Still, it was his best finish in seven Cup starts at Texas. And even he wasn't completely thrilled.
'Was it fun to drive? No. Was it hard to drive? Yes,' Busch said. 'Did it survive the day? Yes. So was it a good day? Sure.'
Ryan Newman was fourth, but his car failed post-race inspection because the right rear of his Dodge was too high.
Denny Hamlin overcame last-lap contact with Clint Bowyer to finish fifth. Bowyer faded to 10th when the contact sent him into the wall. Jeff Burton retained his hold atop the points standings by finishing sixth and was followed by Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Bowyer as only 10 cars finished on the lead lap.
Earnhardt hoped to mark the 10th anniversary of his first NASCAR win with a return to Victory Lane, but the pole-sitter never challenged and finished 12th, a lap down. He scored his first victory here in 1998 in what was then called the Busch Series, and he scored his first Cup victory here in 2000.
NASCAR's most popular driver is still trying to end a 69-race winless streak. His last victory was at Richmond in May 2006.
Michael McDowell, the rookie involved in a spectacular crash during Friday's qualifying session, had an uneventful race running at the back of the field. He finished 33rd, seven laps down, in his second career start.