Carl Edwards was able to stay out in front of five-time Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway winner Jeff Gordon in the closing laps of the Toyota Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma on Sunday to claim his second win of the season and his first, ever, on a road course.
“We had a lot of problem in the middle of corners, but I knew if it came down to a real fight at the end, we’d be hard to beat through the braking points,” Edwards said.
Gordon finished second, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed his first-career Sonoma top-10 finish by finishing third.
“Carl was driving a real good race and tires were falling off really bad,” Gordon said. “I made one mistake with five to go, or maybe four.”
Edwards took the lead from Marcos Ambrose on a restart that followed a caution on lap 82 of the 110-lap race and ran up front the rest of the way. Gordon moved up to third shortly after and then climbed to second with eight-laps to go. Earnhardt took third with about five to go.
Jamie McMurray started on the pole, and he and A.J. Allmendinger battled for the lead in the early laps. Allmendinger was able to take the spot on lap nine and ran up front until Kevin Harvick took the top spot around lap 20.
Harvick, like Edwards, planned a two-stop strategy while many planned on pitting three times throughout the race. With that strategy, both hit pit road for the first time when the first caution of the race came out on lap 30.
Allmendinger was back up front with McMurray in second on the restart that followed, having pitted before the caution because he was on a three-stop strategy. As drivers on the three-stop strategy peeled off the track for their second stops around the halfway point of the race, Harvick worked his way back up toward the lead.
A few laps after a lap 62 caution, Harvick lost the lead to Jimmie Johnson and eventually dropped the fourth by the time the third yellow flag waved just past lap 70. Able to go the remaining distance on fuel, Harvick and Johnson were among those who pitted during the caution.
Both drivers were mired back in the field for the restart behind drivers who stayed out. Things then went from bad to worse for Harvick when he hit a spinning Clint Bowyer on lap 82. In the end, Harvick wound up 20th. Bowyer continued on to finish 10th.
Earnhardt was also caught up in an incident, getting into Matt Kenseth’s car on lap 76 and sending Kenseth hard into the wall. Kenseth was unable to continue.
“It was a little bit nasty. I was a little sick to my stomach about getting into Matt,” Earnhardt said. “I got into that curb and it launched me into Matt’s car.”
McMurray finished fourth, and Paul Menard posted a career-best Sonoma finish of fifth. Kasey Kahne was sixth, Johnson seventh, Ambrose eighth, and Greg Biffle finished ninth.