When you think of road course racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series one of the names that does not come to mind as a race winner is Carl Edwards. But that may be a thing of the past. During the last portion of Sunday’s race at Pocono, Edwards took a commanding lead and left much of the field behind. Edwards won the Sunday running of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway after taking the lead away from Marcus Ambrose.
Heading into the race, held at Sonoma Raceway which is north of San Francisco and Oakland California, Edwards was reeling from a poor finish the week before. The good news is that “Concrete Carl” had already notched a win earlier in the season, so a victory at Sonoma gave the driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford a stamped ticket to the NASCAR Race for the Chase, only if he finishes the season in the top 30 and attempts to make every race on the schedule.
A late race caution at Sonoma helped position Edwards close to the leaders for the final stretch of the race. A week before, Edwards had finished out of the top-twenty at Michigan in the 23rd spot. In post race interviews he said that his whole team, on every level, pulled together over the week to make sure things were ready to go for Sonoma.
"I'm living proof right here that, whatever it is you're doing, just keep doing it, and don't ever give up,” Edwards said. “Because somehow things can work out, I'm just very fortunate."
Moments after the restart after the caution on lap 86, Edwards powered close to race leader Marcus Ambrose. Before the field made its way around the long road course, Edwards had taken the lead away from Ambrose but he was followed by a driver with plenty of road course experience in the form of Jeff Gordon. Not far behind, Dale Earnhardt Jr was making his way thought the field in search of a third place finish.
Jamie McMurray pulled in fourth followed by Paul Menard. Ambrose continued to slide backwards during the closing laps as his car began to fade finishing eighth behind Kasey Kahane in sixth and Jimmie Johnson in seventh. Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top ten.
While Edwards was able to drive to the checkered flag during the final laps it was not an easy finish as Gordon would not be easily shaken. Gordon finished only .591 seconds behind Edwards after Edwards had a lead of multiple car lengths only a few laps earlier. Edwards said he well aware that a driver with plenty of Sonoma experience was right behind him in the form of Jeff Gordon.
"Literally, I'm a fan of this sport, and I grew up watching Jeff Gordon go through those esses (S curves) 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."