Edwards races to 1st road course win
(AP) — His future with Roush Fenway Racing is uncertain, but Carl Edwards isn’t letting that slow him down this season.
Edwards’ win on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway was his second of the season and locked him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The pivotal moment comes as speculation mounts he’s leaving Roush at the end of the season to join Joe Gibbs Racing.
Edwards, who declines to discuss his future, said he’s able to focus on the job at hand.
“I think you guys (the media) worry about that more than we do,” he said. “We come out here and race every week and the mission is to win the championship. So for me, it’s really simple: I just have to give the best I can every week, and that’s it.”
Edwards grabbed his first career road course victory and ended the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut of five-consecutive races by holding off five-time Sonoma winner Jeff Gordon. It came a week after Roush Fenway was shut out at Michigan, where the organization failed to put a car in the top 10 for the first time since 2000.
Edwards took the lead on a restart with 25 laps remaining and seemed to have the win wrapped up until Gordon nearly chased him down on the final lap. Gordon had one good look at Edwards and couldn’t pull off the pass.
“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 and all the successes he had here, so I mean, that’s really super. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
It wasn’t a terrible day for the Hendrick organization, which had won every Sprint Cup Series race since Gordon’s victory at Kansas on May 10. Instead, HMS settled for all four of its drivers finishing in the top seven.
Gordon, the Sprint Cup Series points leader, wound up second. He said he made one mistake in overdriving a turn with about five laps to go that allowed Edwards to build a healthy lead.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third after rallying from an earlier incident that wrecked Matt Kenseth, and was apologetic on the radio and after the race.
“I tried to screw it up a couple times in the race, but I calmed down and was able to get a good finish,” 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.”
Kasey Kahne bounced back from an early flat tire to finish sixth and Jimmie Johnson was seventh.
In all, Chevrolet drivers took spots two through seven as pole-sitter Jamie McMurray, using a Hendrick engine, finished fourth and Paul Menard was fifth.
Fords rounded out the top 10, led by Edwards, Marcos Ambrose eighth and Roush driver Greg Biffle was 10th.
The highest-finishing Toyota was Clint Bowyer in 11th.