Carl Edwards won his first career road course race Sunday at Sonoma Raceway after he took the lead on a restart with 25 laps to go and then held off a late charge from Jeff Gordon. The win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 is the second of the 2014 season for Edwards which locks him into the Chase. The win is also the 23rd of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
His win also marks the tenth different winner in the last 10 races at Sonoma's road course. Rounding out the top five were Dale Earnhardt Jr in third, Jamie McMurray fourth, and Paul Menard fifth.
Jamie McMurray started the 110 lap race from the pole position and was able to hold the early lead over AJ Allmendinger. Martin Truex Jr flat spotted his tires on lap 1 in Turn 2 and he made an early pit stop to change tires.
On lap 9 Allmendinger made the move for the lead and got past McMurray in Turn 11. Brad Keselowski was running 18th on lap 10 when he cut across the nose of Kyle Busch's car exiting Turn 11 and he spun out. No caution came out for the spin and Keselowski continued. By lap 15 Allmendinger led over McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, and Kurt Busch.
Tony Stewart started a round of green flag pit stops on lap 20. Kevin Harvick proved to have the best long run car when he took the lead from Allmendinger on lap 22 in Turn 11. On lap 25 Allmendinger and McMurray pitted.
The first caution came out on lap 31 when Landon Cassill blew his engine on the front stretch. He finished 43rd. At the time Havick had a 12 second lead over Edwards, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, and Paul Menard. Those drivers and others who had not pitted under green came down pit road while those who had pitted under green stayed out and moved to the front.
For the lap 35 restart Allmendinger led ahead of McMurray, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Jimmie Johnson in the top five. Harvick meanwhile restarted in 14th. On the restart Earnhardt Jr moved into second and put pressure on Allmendinger for the lead over the next few laps. On lap 36 Casey Mears pitted with front end damage after he was pushed by Clint Bowyer into the back of Kasey Kahne in Turn 7.
By lap 50 Allmendinger led over McMurray, Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Kahne. Harvick had moved to sixth place and passed Kahne when he decided to pit at the end of the lap to start the next round of green flag stops. On lap 53 Johnson pitted from third place.
Jamie McMurray took the lead from Allmendinger on lap 54 out of Turn 7 and Gordon took second in Turn 11. McMurray and Allmendinger pitted under green on lap 55 which put Gordon into the lead. He then pitted on lap 58 which gave the lead to Harvick.
The second caution flew on lap 61 when Ryan Truex stopped on track in the esses. He finished 41st. This time those who did not pit yet under green stayed out which made the top five for the lap 65 restart Harvick, Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose, and Brian Vickers. On lap 66 Vickers made contact with his teammate Bowyer in Turn 7 and took the second position. On lap 68 Johnson moved into second after restarting in tenth. Also on lap 68 Ricky Stenhouse Jr spun out in Turn 11.
Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, and Denny Hamlin all made green flag pit stops and then on lap 71 the third caution flew. This set up interesting strategy as all the drivers could make the finish from here on fuel. Joey Logano was the only driver that elected to stay out which did not just pit and he was the leader. Bowyer, Ambrose, Edwards, and Hamlin stayed out with their cars already having new tires and fuel and they restarted in second through fifth. Jimmie Johnson was the first off pit road and restarted sixth. He was followed by McMurray, Gordon, Allmendinger, Vickers, and Harvick.
The race restarted on lap 75 and Bowyer gained the lead in Turn 2. The fourth caution flew on that lap when Matt Kenseth crashed hard getting into Turn 8 when he was clipped by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt Jr had hit the curb which threw his car into the right-rear of Kenseth. The whole front end of Kenseth's car was destroyed with the contact he made into the tire barrier. He finished 42nd.
The race would restart on lap 80 and this time it was Marcos Ambrose who took the lead in Turn 2 and Carl Edwards moved into second. The fifth caution then flew on lap 82 when Clint Bowyer was spun by Jamie McMurray in Turn 11. Bowyer sat in the track at the corner exit and Kevin Harvick had nowhere to go and piled into Bowyer's car doing significant damage to both cars that needed the attention of their crews.
The race restarted on lap 86 and this time Edwards got a good jump and took the lead from Ambrose. McMurray moved into second place by getting by Ambrose as well. In Turn 11 on lap 86 Dale Earnhardt Jr ran AJ Allmendinger out of room exiting Turn 11 and Allmendinger got sideways where he nosed into the wall and also got contact from Brian Vickers. Both drivers continued and the caution did not come out. In Turn 2 on lap 87 David Gilliland spun out but got back going so the green stayed out. Allmendinger would then pit to have his crew attend to his damage and he lost two laps.
The sixth caution did fly on lap 91 when Brian Vickers spun Ricky Stenhouse Jr exiting Turn 11. Some drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr and Paul Menard made pit stops to get fresh tires and restarted about tenth on lap 95 with 16 laps to go.
Edwards was able to hold the lead over McMurray on the restart and started to open a bit of a gap. On lap 99 Ryan Newman spun Denny Hamlin in Turn 11 in a battle for 15th. Hamlin continued and the caution did not come out. Jeff Gordon started turning fast laps and on lap 102 he took the second place from McMurray and was about two seconds behind Edwards.
On lap 106 Dale Earnhardt Jr passed McMurray for third place. The following lap Kyle Busch spun but got going and the race stayed green. Jeff Gordon continued to close and on the final lap Gordon drove it deep into Turn 11 and got close to the bumper of Edwards but the No. 99 Ford driver got a good run off the turn and opened a few car lengths on Gordon to grab the checkered flag.
Finishing in sixth was Kasey Kahne with Jimmie Johnson seventh, Marcos Ambrose eighth, Greg Biffle ninth, and Clint Bowyer tenth. Ryan Newman finished 11th, Kurt Busch 12th, Casey Mears 13th, Brian Vickers 14th, Martin Truex Jr 15th, Joey Logano 16th, Austin Dillon 17th, Danica Patrick 18th, Tony Stewart 19th, and Kevin Harvick 20th. Other notables in the field included Brad Keselowski in 22nd, Kyle Busch 23rd, Denny Hamlin 26th, Kyle Larson 28th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr 31st, Boris Said 35th, and AJ Allmendinger 37th.
After 16 races in the season there are five drivers locked into the 16-driver Chase Grid. They are Jimmie Johnson with three wins and Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick with two. Jeff Gordon leads the points and has one win. Also with one win are Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch. The final six Chase Grid spots are currently held based on points. Matt Kenseth is fourth in points, Ryan Newman eighth, Kyle Larson tenth, Paul Menard 12th, Clint Bowyer 14th, and Greg Biffle 15th.
The next race up is the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night June 28th.Tags: Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Paul Menard, Sonoma Raceway