Sprint Cup | Edwards Seals Chase Bid with road course win at Sonoma

Sprint Cup No Comments on Sprint Cup | Edwards Seals Chase Bid with road course win at Sonoma 37

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota - Save Mart 350

June 22, 2014

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

SONOMA, Calif.—A well-timed caution helped get Carl Edwards to the front of the field, and the driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford did the rest.

Edwards passed Marcos Ambrose for the lead moments after a restart on Lap 86 and subsequently held off a charging Jeff Gordon to win Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

The victory was Edwards second of the season—guaranteeing him a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, provided he finishes in the top 30 in points after race No. 26 and attempts to qualify for every race. It was the 23rd win of his career, and first Sprint Cup win on a road course.

Gordon finished second, .591 seconds behind Edwards. The runner-up result was Gordon’s fifth at Sonoma, matching his number of victories at the 1.99-mile road course.

The triumph had special meaning for Edwards precisely because it was Gordon who was chasing him to the finish line.

“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 after climbing from his car. “It’s just really, really special.

“I’m living proof right here that, whatever it is you’re doing, just keep doing it, and don’t ever give up, because somehow things can work out. I’m just very fortunate.”

Long before he made his Sprint Cup debut in 2004, Edwards had watched Gordon dominate road races at the tricky, technical track in wine country.

“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 that way, but it definitely meant a lot to have Jeff Gordon in my mirror.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran third, his best-ever road course result, followed by pole winner Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard. Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10.

Bowyer and Ambrose led the field to green on Lap 80, after Matt Kenseth’s brutal contact with the tire barriers in the esses brought out the fourth caution of the afternoon.

Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota spun out of control from contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevrolet, which bounced off the curbing and into the side of Kenseth’s car.

“My bad–I hit the curb and ran into him,” Earnhardt said on his radio.

What happened before the previous caution, however, was the crux of the race. Edwards, Ambrose and Bowyer all came to pit road right before NASCAR called a caution for debris in Turn 10 on Lap 71. That enabled them to stay out under the yellow and propelled them to the front of the field.

Edwards was able to stay there, despite heavy pressure fron Gordon in the closing laps.

In fact, Gordon said a mistake in Turn 4 six laps before the finish may have cost him the race.

“Gosh, I wish I could have had those last five or six laps to do over again,” Gordon said. “I started overdriving it a little bit trying to catch him and making a few mistakes, and I made one in particular that really cost me.

“I think if I had just stayed smooth and stuck with it—looked like his car really started falling off those last couple laps, and I might have had a shot at least putting more pressure on Carl to force him to make a mistake or maybe get a run inside of him.”

There were significant fireworks, however, before that final run. Bowyer started losing positions after the restart on Lap 80 as Edwards surged into second place. Johnson passed the No. 15 Toyota entering Turn 11 on Lap 81, and Bowyer, who had a tire going down, spun after contact from the front bumper of McMurray’s Chevy.

With nowhere to go on the inside of the corner, Kevin Harvick slammed into Bowyer. Harvick had one of the fastest cars on Sunday but had gotten mired in traffic because of a slow stop on pit road before a restart on Lap 75.

The wreck dropped Harvick to 20th at the finish, but Bowyer rallied for his 10th-place result.

Notes: Edwards’ victory was the first at Sonoma for a Ford driver since Ricky Rudd took the checkered flag in 2002 … Edwards’ first road-course triumph also extended the streak of consecutive different winners at the 1.99-mile road course to 10.

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.

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