Carl Edwards race to 1st career road course win
SONOMA, California (AP) — Carl Edwards ended Hendrick Motorsports’ five-race winning streak with his first career victory on a road course.
Edwards sailed past Marcos Ambrose on a restart with 25 laps remaining to win Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. Edwards had never finished higher than third at Sonoma.
The win in a Ford for the Roush Fenway Racing driver ended a string of Hendrick victories that began with Jeff Gordon at Kansas on May 10. Hendrick drivers also won at Charlotte, Dover, Pocono and Michigan.
It was the second win of the season for Edwards and locks him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The win also came a week after Roush was shut out at Michigan, where the organization failed to put a car in the top 10 for the first time since 2000.
Edwards took the lead on a restart with 25 laps remaining and seemed to have the win wrapped up, but Gordon nearly chased him down on the final lap. Gordon, a five-time Sonoma winner, had one good look at Edwards and couldn’t pull off the pass.
“That’s the best I’ve got and it almost wasn’t good enough,” Edwards said. “That last lap was ugly. I grew up watching Jeff Gordon do well here, so to have him in my mirror, that is very special.”
It wasn’t a terrible day for the Hendrick organization, which had won every Sprint Cup Series race since Jeff Gordon’s victory at Kansas on May 10. Instead, HMS settled for all four of its drivers finishing in the top seven.
Gordon, the Sprint Cup Series points leader, wound up second. He said he made one mistake in overdriving a turn with about five laps to go that allowed Edwards to build a healthy lead.
“I just couldn’t put enough pressure on him,” Gordon said. “I think had I put some more pressure on him, I saw him really struggling with the (tire) grip level, but he did everything he needed to do. That last lap, I gave it my best effort and closed up on him and he didn’t overdrive it. I was hoping he might slide up and I’d get a run on him.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third after rallying from an earlier incident that wrecked Matt Kenseth, and was apologetic on the radio and after the race.
“I tried to screw it up a couple times in the race, but I calmed down and was able to get a good finish,” Earnhardt said after his career-best finish on a road course. “I got into Matt, I jumped a curb and jumped into the air and just ran into him. Totally my fault. I hope he’s not sore with me.”
Kasey Kahne bounced back from an early flat tire to finish sixth and Jimmie Johnson was seventh.
In all, Chevrolet drivers took spots two through seven as pole-sitter Jamie McMurray, using a Hendrick engine, finished fourth and Paul Menard was fifth.
Fords rounded out the top 10, led by Edwards, Marcos Ambrose eighth and Roush driver Greg Biffle was 10th.
The highest-finishing Toyota was Clint Bowyer in 11th.
Edwards’ win is his first career victory on a road course, and he’d never been higher than third at Sonoma. More important, it was his second win of this season and locks him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
Crew chief Jimmy Fennig said the race played into their hands after pitting with 40 to go and then a caution came out and Fennig made the call to not bring Edwards in a second time under yellow. The strategy moved Edwards toward the front of the field and he moved his way to the front.
“When you got somebody like Carl behind the wheel, and you put him out front, he’s going to get it done,” Fennig said.