NASCAR: Edwards rolls to first road-race win in Sonoma
SONOMA, CA - Carl Edwards savored his first career road-course victory Sunday.
Edwards took the lead from Marcos Ambrose on a late restart, then went on to win the Toyota Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway.
"That's a moment I'll never forget, to be standing in victory lane and to have held off Jeff Gordon with all the success he's had here and in our sport," Edwards said. "It's just really, really special. I'm living proof that whatever it is you're doing, just keep doing it and don't ever give up, because somehow things can work out."
Edwards passed Ambrose following a lap-82 caution in the 110-lap event, and he held off Jamie McMurray and then Gordon in the final laps to claim his second win of the season.
"We had a lot of problem in the middle of corners, but I knew if it came down to a real fight at the end, we'd be hard to beat through the breaking points," Edwards said.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second and third.
Soon after Edwards took the lead from Ambrose, Gordon moved into third. Gordon moved into second with eight laps to go. Earnhardt took third with about five laps remaining, and a couple of laps later was logged as the fastest car on the race track, but he ran out of time before he was able to catch Gordon or Edwards.
"It was, actually, maybe five or six laps to go. I was making some ground up on Carl," Gordon said. "I was good in the fast sections, and he was pretty good in the slow seconds. So I was having to hit everything so perfect, and I just overdrove it into (turn) four one time and went real wide off and that gave him enough of a gap that I had to close it back in, and I just couldn't put enough pressure on him."
McMurray started on the pole, and he and AJ Allmendinger battled for the lead in the early laps. Allmendinger was able to go in front on lap nine, and he ran up front until Kevin Harvick took the top spot around lap 20.
Harvick, like Edwards, planned a two-stop strategy while many planned on pitting three times throughout the race. With that strategy, both hit pit road for the first time when the first caution of the race came out on lap 30.
Allmendinger was back up front, with McMurray in second, on the restart that followed, having pitted before the caution because he was on a three-stop strategy. As drivers on the three-stop strategy peeled off the track for their second stops around the halfway point of the race, Harvick worked his way back up toward the lead.
A few laps after a lap-62 caution, Harvick lost the lead to Jimmie Johnson and eventually dropped to fourth by the time the third yellow flag waved just past lap 70. Able to go the remaining distance on fuel, Harvick and Johnson were among those who pitted during the caution.
Both drivers were mired back in the field for the restart behind drivers who stayed out. Things then went from bad to worse for Harvick when he hit a spinning Clint Bowyer on lap 82. In the end, Harvick wound up 20th. Bowyer was also hit by McMurray but was able to continue on to finish 10th.
"We had a fast 5-Hour Energy Camry this weekend," Bowyer said. "We got ourselves in position and had a flat. It was going down, and I was all over the place. Jamie just kind of finished me up and got me out of the way, I guess."
Earnhardt was also caught up in an incident, getting into Matt Kenseth's car on lap 76 and sending Kenseth hard into the wall. Kenseth was unable to continue.
"I got into Matt and jumped that curb and just jumped in there and ran into him; it was totally my fault," Earnhardt said. "Just racing a little too hard through there with him and probably should have let him have the spot."
McMurray finished fourth, and Paul Menard was fifth. Kasey Kahne finished sixth, Johnson was seventh, Ambrose eighth, and Greg Biffle finished ninth.
NOTES: Carl Edwards' win was the first for Ford at Sonoma since Ricky Rudd's win in 2002. ... Jeff Gordon is the all-time wins leader at Sonoma with five. ... Edwards becomes the 10th different winner at Sonoma in the last 10 races. ... Edwards' win snapped a snapped a five-race winning streak by Hendrick Motorsports and a two-race winning streak at Sonoma for Michael Waltrip Racing. ... The Sonoma race is the first of two road course races this year, with the second being Aug. 10 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s third-place finish is his first-ever top-10 at Sonoma Raceway and his best-ever finish on a road course.
By Amanda Vincent, The Sports Xchange.