AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Carl Edwards won another race Saturday, this time holding off Busch series runner-up Clint Bowyer to take the Arizona 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Bowyer’s second-place run, combined with a sixth-place finish for points leader and reigning Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr., cut the leader’s margin to 64 points with only next Saturday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway remaining.

But all Truex needs to do to assure himself of becoming the first repeat winner in the series since Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the co-owner of his car – in 1998-99, is finish 12th or better, even if Bowyer wins and leads the most laps.

Truex didn’t act like a driver on the brink of another championship, though. The disappointed Chance 2 driver said, “We can’t seem to do anything right.

“We adjusted the car on every pit stop and it never got better. It was just a rough day.”

Looking ahead to Homestead, he added, “We still need to go there and have a decent run. I’ve always done pretty well there and I’d like nothing better than to go there and win and put this thing away.”

Bowyer started 32nd in the 43-car field and had to battle his way to the front for the second straight race.

He nearly got past Edwards about 18 laps from the end of the 200-lap event on the 1-mile Phoenix oval, but Edwards, driving a high line on the slick track, somehow held on and eventually pulled away as Kenseth battled Bowyer for second place.

“You just go out and try to win the race,” Bowyer said of the finale. “We’ll just try not to qualify 30th anymore. I’m over that.”

It was the fifth Busch win of the season for Edwards, who also has won four times in his first full season in Nextel Cup and goes into today’s Checker Auto Parts 500 with two straight Cup victories and third in the points, behind Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson.

The 26-year-old Missourian dominated Saturday’s race, leading twice for 103 laps, including the final 20.

“That was a real race, a lot of fun,” said Edwards, who expected Bowyer to try to bump him aside late in the race. “I was expecting him to nerf me aside or put me in the wall, but he didn’t and it’s a good thing for me.

“We learned a lot about how the track changes today, and some other things that should help us tomorrow. I just know, after winning today, I’m going to sleep well tonight.”

Kenseth wound up third, followed by fellow Cup stars Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle. Edwards, Kenseth and Biffle are all teammates on Roush Racing.

AP-ES-11-12-05 1850EST

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