It didn’t work for Edwards, and Hamlin drove away for his third victory of the season.
“My biggest win, this is such a great feeling,” said Hamlin, who praised the setup crew chief Darian Grubb used for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“It just hauled the mail. This is just a big win, I don’t know how else to explain it.”
There’s two races left before the field is reset for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, and seeding is done by “regular season” wins. With three victories, Hamlin is tied with defending champion Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski for most in the series.
The four would be tied for the top seed right now, but all want at least one more win to break the logjam.
“We’re not done winning yet. We’ve still got a few more to go,” Hamlin promised.
Johnson finished second and clinched a berth in the Chase, as did Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Gordon was third — giving Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet’s second and third — followed by Brian Vickers in a Toyota and Marcos Ambrose in a Ford.
Kyle Busch was a quiet sixth, Clint Bowyer was seventh and Joey Logano, winner of the Nationwide Series race Friday night, was eighth. Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard rounded out the top 10. Edwards ended up 22nd.
The race was the first since track owner Bruton Smith ordered a grinding of the top groove around the track in an effort to narrow the racing surface. His goal was to bring back bumping and banging to Bristol after several consecutive disappointing crowds.
Although the race wasn’t a sellout, Hamlin noted “this is the biggest crowd I’ve seen here in forever.”
But it created many unknowns as few were sure how the race would develop.
Asked Friday when it would become evident what the track changes had accomplished, Tony Stewart mockingly said “exactly on lap 236. Not a lap before, not a lap after.”
He was off by about 100 laps.
Stewart rallied from a lap down early in the race to put himself in position to challenge for the lead, but he ran out of track while running with Matt Kenseth and the two cars collided. The damage briefly knocked Stewart out of the race and sent Kenseth to pit road for repairs.
Stewart then showed his displeasure with Kenseth with a two-handed toss of his helmet directly into the front grill of Kenseth’s car. Stewart put all the blame squarely on Kenseth immediately after the accident, vowing to “run over him every chance I get for the rest of the year.”
As for the helmet collected by NASCAR officials on pit road? “The hell with the helmet,” he said.