FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Carl Edwards looked like he might deny Jeff Gordon his first Texas win while getting his third straight Sunday.

The final pit stop with 30 laps to go changed everything.

Edwards went to pit road with the lead just a few laps after he overtook the four-time Sprint Cup champion, who was struggling to keep his car under control. Moments later, Gordon’s crew was celebrating wildly, while a problem with a tire change left Edwards angry.

The only three-time Sprint Cup winner at Texas Motor Speedway dropped an astonishing 10 spots because of the mistake and was relegated to spectator for Gordon’s historic win.

As mad as he looked in the car after leaving the pits, Edwards chose the philosophical route after the race.

“They don’t yell at me when I hit the wall, so it’s not my position to be mad at them,” said Edwards, who settled for 10th. “We just have to do whatever we can to fix it.”

Briefly up front

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was out front coming out of a caution about 75 laps from the end, but the lead disappeared in a hurry.

Trying to keep from going two laps down, Kyle Busch tried to make a move and slid up the track. Earnhardt said he didn’t hit Busch, but he had to swing way wide, almost into the wall, to avoid contact.

Earnhardt dropped to fifth quickly and later hit the wall. He finished 20th, same as his starting position.

“He had gotten his car a little bit better and saw an opportunity to try to get his laps back,” Earnhardt said of Busch. “Tough deal. He races really aggressively.”

Earnhardt said he spun his tires on the restart, giving Busch hope for a pass.

Solid Stewart

Tony Stewart finished fourth, one spot shy of his best with his new Stewart-Haas Racing team. But this might have been his most solid effort.

After starting seventh, Stewart ran in the top five all day and led four times for 16 laps.

“The car owner is happy, the driver is ticked off,” Stewart said. “We weren’t very good at taking off, but after about 25 laps, we were the fastest car on the race track all day.”

More pitfalls

Pole sitter David Reutimann knocked himself out of contention about halfway through the race by missing his pit box. The one-lap penalty knocked from the top five to the back half of the field.

Reutimann eventually got the lap back on a caution and finished 11th, but he wasn’t a factor again after leading 40 of the first 51 laps.

Goin’ old school

Kyle Busch drove with a throwback Bobby Labonte paint scheme to pay homage to the Texan who used to drive the No. 18 car.

Busch, normally in the yellow M&M’s car, drove a green Interstate Batteries car Sunday, just like the veteran Corpus Christi native used to do.

Part of the plan was to honor Labonte’s induction this week into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. An inscription on the trunk made reference to the induction.

Labonte, driving the white No. 96, finished 40th after his car was damaged when he got caught behind a smoky spin by Sam Hornish Jr.

AWESTRUCK BUSH: New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush experienced his first Sprint Cup race Sunday. The former Heisman Trophy winner was in awe.

He even forgot that he once played for a national championship in front of about 100,000 people at the Rose Bowl, overestimating the announced crowd of 176,300.

“The amount of people that come out for this is three times any football game I’ve ever played in,” he said.

Bush said he’s intrigued enough that he might one day invest in racing, just as former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman did.

“Maybe 10, 15, 20 years from now, who knows?” Bush said.

PIANO PRODIGY: Lewis Warren Jr., a 12-year-old prodigy on the piano, played like a seasoned veteran with a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

The Dallas-area native was featured last year on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” series and has studied at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. His mother said he sets himself apart with his improvisation, and he showed it in front of his largest crowd yet.

Dressed in a flashy white suit, Warren was in position on a flatbed trailer at the start-finish line in plenty of time, which is significant because of what happened 12 years ago with world-famous pianist Van Cliburn, a Fort Worth native.

Cliburn was lined up for the anthem at Texas Motor Speedway’s first race, but officials didn’t realize he wasn’t there until three minutes before he was supposed to play. He was waiting for someone to fly him by helicopter over a disastrous traffic jam. Instead, Cliburn did the honors a year later.

ATTENDANCE DROP: Add the biggest sporting event in Texas to the list of victims of the economy. The spring race had its lowest attendance to date at 176,300, about 13,700 lower than last spring.

The spring numbers in Texas have been down since a fall race was added in 2005, but Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage was prepared for even lower numbers this year.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Sunday’s race blew away the Texas record for the latest caution flag. The first caution came on Lap 98 for debris. The previous record was 64 laps in the 2006 spring race. … Mark Martin celebrated the 28th anniversary of his first Sprint Cup race in 1981 at North Wilkesboro, N.C. Martin finished sixth in his 729th career race.

AP-ES-04-05-09 2058EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.