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Carl Edwards wins first road race

Carl Edwards does his traditional celebratory back flip after winning at Sonoma. His second victory of the year locks him into the Chase for the Champion­ship.

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Carl Edwards does his traditional celebratory back flip after winning at Sonoma. His second victory of the year locks him into the Chase for the Champion­ship.

SONOMA, Calif. — Carl Edwards has never been known for his road racing skills. Team owner Jack Roush even sent him testing in a two-seater so road racing specialist Boris Said could teach him the basics.

A decade later, Edwards has a win to show for his hard work.

And he held off Jeff Gordon to win the SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, where Gordon has won five times.

"My road racing progression, it's been a pretty long climb," Edwards said. "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. I grew up watching Jeff Gordon and, specifically, watching how he drove this race track. It's something I'll never forget."

Edwards made Roush Fenway Racing the unlikely organization to end Hendrick Motorsports' five-race winning streak. It came a week after Michigan, where Roush failed to put a car among the top 10 for the first time since 2000.

Even more important, it was Edwards' second win of the season and locks him into the Chase for the Championship.

Edwards took the lead on a restart with 25 laps left and seemed to have the win wrapped up. But Gordon nearly chased him down on the final lap.

"That's the best I've got, and it almost wasn't good enough," said Edwards, whose previous best finish on a road course was third. "That last lap was ugly."

Crew chief Jimmy Fennig said the race played into their hands. After pitting with 40 laps to go, a caution came out. Fennig made the call to not bring Edwards in a second time under yellow. The strategy moved him 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.

It wasn't a terrible day for the Hendrick organization, which had won every Sprint Cup race since Gordon took Kansas on May 10. Instead, HMS settled for all four of its drivers finishing among the top seven.

Gordon, who kept his points lead, said he made one mistake, 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," he said. "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 an incident that wrecked Matt Kenseth, for which he apologized on the radio and after the race.

"I tried to screw it up a couple times in the race, but I calmed down," 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."

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 76.583 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 51 minutes, 30 seconds

Margin of victory: 0.591 seconds

Caution flags: Six for 19 laps

Lead changes: 11 among nine drivers

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

Sprint Cup points

After 16 of 26 races. Sixteen drivers will make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jeff Gordon* 580—

Jimmie Johnson*** 560 20

Dale Earnhardt Jr.** 555 25

Matt Kenseth 515 65

Brad Keselowski* 512 68

Carl Edwards** 509 71

Joey Logano** 483 97

Ryan Newman 473 107

Kevin Harvick** 472 108

Kyle Larson 470 110

Kyle Busch* 465 115

Paul Menard 459 121

Each asterisk (*) equals one win.

Up next

Quaker State 400, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Kentucky Speedway, Sparta

TV/radio: TNT; 102.5-FM

Carl Edwards wins first road race 06/22/14 [Last modified: Sunday, June 22, 2014 9:31pm]
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