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Edwards Captures Sonoma For First Road Win

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 22 2014

Carl Edwards takes the checkered flag Sunday at Sonoma. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tami Kelly Pope)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Fact: NASCAR drivers extract a lot of pride from winning road races. It tends to make them feel like complete competitors.

Carl Edwards got the first road course win of his career Sunday after he jumped to the lead in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway on a restart with 25 laps remaining. From there, he held off Jeff Gordon over the final couple of turns and the pride flowed.

“It means a lot to me,” Edwards said. “A lot. My road racing progression, it’s been a pretty long climb from when jack let Boris come to VIR, the two-seater, and basically we ran off in the dirt a bunch all day, and Boris taught me all of the basics of road racing. To be able to come here and to be able to win this race 10 years later is really special.

“A lot of hard work has gone into this, and to be locked into the Chase is huge. Now we can focus really hard on our program for the final 10 races.

“And then the real special part to me was to stand in victory lane at Sonoma and have Jeff Gordon come and give me a handshake as the second place finisher means a lot. I grew up watching Jeff Gordon and specifically watching how he drove this racetrack and all the successes he had here, so I mean, that’s really super. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

It was the Roush Fenway Racing driver’s first top-10 finish in the last four races.

It came against one of the best road racers in Cup history.

“Literally, I’m a fan of this sport and I grew up watching Jeff Gordon go through those esses and watching how he drove his car, so to be able to hold him off like that means a lot,” Edwards said. “I’m glad there wasn’t one or two more laps in the race because I don’t know if it would have worked out that way, but it definitely meant a lot to have Jeff Gordon in my mirror.”

Edwards’ win busted a streak of five straight races won by Hendrick Motorsports drivers.

At Sonoma, HMS’s Gordon finished second while teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third.

“On that last lap,” Gordon said, “I gave it my best effort and closed up on him, but I just drove into (Turn) 11 as hard as I could. We weren’t good in 11 anyway. He didn’t overdrive it. I was hoping he might slide up and I’d get a run underneath him. But all in all, it was a great weekend for this Panasonic Chevy and I could have been more proud of the calls made and everything the team did. We didn’t qualify good, but we had a great car in the race.”

Finishing fourth was  pole-winner Jamie McMurray of Chip Ganassi Racing.

“I’m happy that I’m mad that I finished fourth, if that makes any sense,” McMurray said. “I thought I had a chance to win but when the last caution came out I was working Carl (Edwards) there a little bit, and I was just waiting on him to make a mistake. I felt like I was better than he was. And when we went back green, after the caution, I just used up too much car in (Turns) 1 and 2 and spun the tires really bad and paid the penalty for that the remainder of the run. But it was a really good day. Our pit crew did a really good job. We had a huge group of people with Cessna here today. So, overall, I’m mad that we finished fourth, but we had a great weekend.”

Paul Menard of Richard Childress Racing finished fifth.

“It was a good day,” Menard said. “We unloaded fast on Friday, and we qualified ninth. We were disappointed with ninth actually. We felt like we had a little bit better car than that actually. The first run was pretty brutal actually. We got really loose, and the guys tightened it up with some air pressure, and we got a lot better. From then on, we were a 10th place car probably and then drove up to top-five with tires.”

Pole-sitter McMurray led the first eight laps before being overtaken by AJ Allmendinger.

Allmendinger clung to the lead until he was tracked down and passed by Harvick on lap 20.  He held the lead until he pitted during caution on Lap 32. Going back to the lead was Allmendinger, who had pitted six laps earlier.

On Lap 55, McMurray moved in on Allmendinger and made a pass for the lead. McMurray pitted a lap later and that handed the lead to Jeff Gordon, who became the fourth leader of the race.

On Lap 58, Gordon pitted, which allowed Harvick to move back to the lead.

On Lap 71, Johnson became the fifth leader in the race as he used newer tires to track Kevin Harvick down and make the pass. A half lap later, the caution flag waved and Johnson led a large group of lead-lap drivers into the pits.

Taking the lead was Joey Logano, who opted not to pit. Also not pitting because he was on a different cycle, was Clint Bowyer. When the race restarted on Lap 75, Bowyer quickly moved past Logano and into the lead. Almost immediately, a crash involving Matt Kenseth and Earnhardt brought out another caution.

“Yeah, I knew he (Earnhardt) was on my right side,” Kenseth said. “On the restart we were side-by-side and I got him going into (turn) seven and left him plenty of room when we were racing side-by-side. He tapped me on my right rear and wrecked me. I don’t know if he got out of the groove with his car – I don’t really know what happened and it doesn’t matter at this point. Unfortunately it ended our day.”

“I am sick at my stomach getting into Matt there,” Earnhardt said. “I just hopped that curb, and it threw me right into him. I shouldn’t have been running him hard I guess, I just got up on that curb and it just launched me over into the side of his car.”

On the ensuing restart, Marcos Ambrose quickly jumped past Bowyer and took the lead for the first time.

On Lap 82, two drivers in fast cars and with legit chances to win – Bowyer and Harvick – got caught up in a wreck and were taken out of contention.

“I got a flat tire,” Bowyer said of the cause of the wreck.

With 25 laps to go in the 110-lap race, Carl Edwards jumped past Ambrose on the restart.

Three laps later, Allmendinger’s hopes for a victory faded when he spun and was involved in a wreck. The damage sent Almendinger, who had led 35 laps and was running in the top 10 at the time, to the pits.

In the end, nobody could get past Edwards.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Toyota – Save Mart 350

Sonoma Raceway

Sonoma, California

Sunday, June 22, 2014

1. (4) Carl Edwards, Ford, 110, $335790.

2. (15) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 110, $238266.

3. (17) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 110, $167230.

4. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 110, $185869.

5. (9) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 110, $147344.

6. (30) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 110, $126870.

7. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 110, $157431.

8. (23) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 110, $137340.

9. (19) Greg Biffle, Ford, 110, $143820.

10. (25) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 110, $136411.

11. (7) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 110, $107785.

12. (5) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 110, $101635.

13. (12) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 110, $129543.

14. (8) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 110, $128910.

15. (18) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 110, $123643.

16. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 110, $132326.

17. (26) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 110, $141596.

18. (11) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 110, $102310.

19. (21) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 110, $127743.

20. (6) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 110, $131193.

21. (27) David Gilliland, Ford, 110, $116068.

22. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 110, $133268.

23. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 110, $127671.

24. (28) Michael McDowell, Ford, 110, $86785.

25. (20) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 110, $134701.

26. (16) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 110, $97035.

27. (32) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 110, $88385.

28. (3) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 110, $114555.

29. (38) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 110, $101643.

30. (42) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 110, $100493.

31. (24) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 109, $122485.

32. (40) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 109, $93537.

33. (35) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 109, $91880.

34. (39) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 109, $83745.

35. (41) Boris Said, Ford, 109, $83605.

36. (31) David Ragan, Ford, 109, $91520.

37. (2) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 108, $89983.

38. (43) Tomy Drissi, Toyota, 108, $85850.

39. (36) Alex Kennedy, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 104, $73850.

40. (33) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 95, $69850.

41. (34) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, 91, $65850.

42. (14) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, Accident, 74, $110986.

43. (37) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 29, $58350.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 76.583 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 51 Mins, 30 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.591 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 19 laps.

Lead Changes: 11 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J. McMurray 1-8; A. Allmendinger 9-21; K. Harvick 22-31; A. Allmendinger 32-53; J. McMurray 54; J. Gordon 55-57; K. Harvick 58-70; J. Johnson 71; J. Logano 72-74; C. Bowyer 75-79; M. Ambrose 80-84; C. Edwards 85-110.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): A. Allmendinger 2 times for 35 laps; C. Edwards 1 time for 26 laps; K. Harvick 2 times for 23 laps; J. McMurray 2 times for 9 laps; C. Bowyer 1 time for 5 laps; M. Ambrose 1 time for 5 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 3 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 3 laps; J. Johnson 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon – 580; J. Johnson – 560; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 555; M. Kenseth – 515; B. Keselowski – 512; C. Edwards – 509; J. Logano – 483; R. Newman – 473; K. Harvick – 472; K. Larson # – 470; Kyle Busch – 465; P. Menard – 459; D. Hamlin – 453; C. Bowyer – 452; G. Biffle – 444; K. Kahne – 429.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 22 2014
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