Edwards claims first road-course win at Sonoma

The Sports NetworkJune 22, 2014 

Sonoma, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Carl Edwards won a road-course race for the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career after holding Jeff Gordon in the closing laps of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Edwards, who had finished third in two of the past three races at Sonoma, grabbed the lead from Marcos Ambrose following a restart with 26 laps to go in this 110-lap race. Gordon moved into second with eight laps remaining and then chased down Edwards for the top position, but Gordon came up 0.6 seconds short of winning at this 1.99-mile, 12-turn Northern California road course for a record-extending sixth time.

Having last pitted on lap 70, Edwards' tires were wearing out, allowing Gordon to gain on him. Gordon challenged Edwards for the lead in turn 11 on the final lap but could not make the pass.

"That last lap was ugly," Edwards said. "I grew up watching Jeff Gordon do well here, and so to have him in my [rearview] mirror, that was very special."

Gordon was also attempting to give Hendrick Motorsports its sixth consecutive race victory. Gordon began Hendrick's winning streak last month at Kansas. Jimmie Johnson won at Charlotte, Dover and last weekend's race at Michigan. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag at Pocono.

"On that last lap, I gave it my best effort and closed up on [Edwards], but I just drove into [turn] 11 as hard as I could," Gordon said. "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."

Edwards, who drives the No. 99 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, scored his 23rd career win in Sprint Cup, including his second of the season. Currently sixth in the point standings, Edwards is now assured of making this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. His first victory this season came in March at Bristol.

Competing in NASCAR's top series since 2004, Edwards' maiden win on a road course came in his 19th attempt -- 10 races at Sonoma and 9 at Watkins Glen, New York. The series will be at Watkins Glen on the second weekend in August.

"It means a lot to me, a lot," Edwards said of his first road course win. "My road racing progression, it's been a pretty long climb from when [team owner] Jack [Roush] let [road-racing specialist] Boris [Said] come to VIR [Virginia International Raceway], the two-seater, and basically we ran off in the dirt a bunch all day. 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."

Edwards became the 10th different driver to win in the last 10 races at Sonoma.

Earnhardt posted his first top-10 finish at Sonoma with a third-place run. On lap 75, he had a run-in with Matt Kenseth, as his car went up and over the curb and then bumped into Kenseth's right-rear, causing him to spin out and slam hard into the tire barrier. Kenseth, who was not injured, finished 42nd.

"I knew [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."

Earnhardt took blame for the accident.

"I am sick at my stomach getting into Matt there," he 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."

Earnhardt also ran into A.J. Allmendinger earlier in the race, causing significant damage to Allmendinger's car.

"I tried to screw it up there a couple of times in the race but calmed down and was able to get a good finish out of it," Earnhardt added.

Allmendinger, who started second and was dominant in the first half by leading a race-high 35 laps, finished two laps behind in 37th.

"We led a lot of laps today, and we were good enough to win the thing, no doubt," Allmendinger said. "It's just disappointing the way our day ended and to leave Sonoma with a car that is tore up."

Even though Hendrick Motorsports' winning streak came to an end, all four of its drivers did finish in the top-10, as Kasey Kahne placed sixth and Johnson seventh.

Jamie McMurray, the pole sitter, finished fourth, and Paul Menard took the fifth spot.

Ambrose wound up finishing eighth, while Greg Biffle, who is Edwards' teammate, and Clint Bowyer completed the top-10.

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