Edwards inches closer to Johnson in standings
June 23, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
Race recap | Standings | Owners points
SONOMA, Calif. -- Finishing where he started was no mere exercise in futility for Carl Edwards after a rough-edged Sunday drive at Sonoma Raceway. In the wider scope of things, it solidified his place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.
A third-place start led to a third-place finish for Edwards in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, helping him inch slightly closer to series leader Jimmie Johnson, who finished ninth. His 31-point deficit to the five-time champion closed to 25 points by day’s end.
“It feels weird to race that hard all day and finish in the same spot you started,” Edwards said. “That's not the true story. I actually got passed a lot and passed a lot of folks. Pretty dynamic race -- there was a lot that happened.”
The plot twists that found Edwards on the podium included a sound race strategy, surviving a fuel issue and escaping damage after a mid-race run-in with Kyle Busch. The last piece of the puzzle was pouncing into third position when Juan Pablo Montoya’s out-of-gas car sputtered to a crawl in the final lap.
“I thought we did a good job with the car. I thought we did a great job with strategy. We got beat up just a little bit in the middle of the race racing really hard with guys.”
The hardest racing took place with Busch, who was already seething from an early spin after Lap 2 contact with Montoya. Busch recovered, but was under intense pressure from Edwards and Marcos Ambrose on the fringes of the top 15 in the race’s second half.
After hounding Busch for a number of laps, Edwards nosed his No. 99 Ford inside Busch’s car in Turn 9 with 27 laps to go in the 110-lap event. Busch’s No. 18 Toyota made a long slide before backing into the Turn 10 tire barrier, forcing the last of the race’s seven caution periods.
“I feel really bad about the incident with Kyle back there,” Edwards said. “We were racing really hard and I got to the inside of him. I took a gamble that he knew I was there and the spotter called it. I backed out as hard as I could and ended up wrecking him. ... I didn’t mean to do that; we were just racing so hard back there.”
The ensuing yellow flag helped change the complexion of the race. Edwards stayed on the track to better his position, moving up to fifth place for the final restart.
From there, the biggest concern was fuel mileage. The worry was twofold -- Edwards said the team spilled fuel and didn’t get the tank all the way full. Also, the chance of a green-white-checkered overtime finish threatened to stretch fuel economy to the limit.
“I don't know how much fuel was in the car, but I was definitely dreading a caution with two to go because if that would have happened I don't know if we would have made it to the end,” Edwards said. “We were very, very close on fuel. ... I think there would have been a lot of people, and you might have seen guys out there on foot pushing their cars.”
While Edwards fell to 0-for-17 on road courses, evidence suggests he could be closing in on an elusive non-oval victory. The third-place finish was his second in three years at Sonoma, and his track record at Watkins Glen -- the other road course on the Sprint Cup tour -- is even better, with seven straight finishes in the top 15 and a Coors Light Pole Award in 2010.
“Top-three finishes, I mean, it's something we can be proud of,” Edwards said, “and if we can keep coming here and qualify well and finish well, eventually we will win one ofthese races.”