My Brain on NASCAR: A five-dollar footlong conspiracy in Phoenix

A losing streak that lasted so long even Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won a race since it began was snapped on March 3, when Carl Edwards took the checkered flag at Phoenix International Raceway.

Edwards, driving the No. 99 Subway Ford, led 122 laps on his way to winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500. Giving the command for the drivers to start their engines was actor and new Subwas spokesman Brian Baumgartner, who stars as voracious over-eater and general sloth-in-residence Kevin Malone on the terrific NBC sitcom “The Office.”

I was watching the UNC Tarheels put a beatdown on the Florida State Seminoles at the time and missed the pre-race festivities, but I’m willing to bet that Jared Fogel, AKA America’s Unlikeliest Celebrity, was also lurking somewhere around the track. That guy makes more races than some of the drivers.

Long story short, it was officially Subway Day. Let the conspiracy theories begin.

In all honesty, it really was quite the perfect storm for this loyal race sponsor, which has also featured drivers Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart in its advertising campaigns. Seventy races had come and gone since Edwards’ last win — at Las Vegas in March 2011 — and while I still question the wisdom of his trademark celebratory backflip, he earned it fair and square.

(Note to sponsors: Maybe someone should design a cool-looking skateboarder-style helmet for Edwards to wear in Victory Lane. It might save him a really bad headache with the added bonus of saving his team owner Jack Roush a few sleepless nights. Keeping the boss happy is never a bad thing.)

It was truly a great day for Subway, but after 70 races and two years it is safe to say that Edwards is back? He thinks so.

“A lot of people that have been in sports understand this, but when you’re struggling it seems like time slows down. You’re working harder, you’re trying more, you’re questioning yourself more,” Edwards said after the race. “I’m very, very happy to be back in the mix here. A victory is huge, and for so many reasons. Last year we didn’t make the Chase. For me to sit home while everybody was at the Chase stuff and at Vegas, that was a little bit of a shock to me. I did not like that at all.

“To get a victory helps us be in a better position for the Chase. It just feels good to win, and I’m just very glad to be here.”

Ford lost Edwards’ former teammate Matt Kenseth, one of the manufacturer’s most dominant drivers, to the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team this season, so it’s nice to see Edwards step up and fill the gap. His Roush Fenway Racing colleagues Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are doing their part, as well; both drivers are currently sitting in the top 10 in the driver standings.

One last thing: If anyone knows of a restaurant chain, like Chipotle or maybe Buffalo Wild Wings, that wants to make someone a celebrity in exchange for eating their food, I would totally be open to discussing that. Just sayin’.

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