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Edwards holds off Gordon to win Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway

By From page B1 | June 23, 2014

SONOMA — Another year, another different NASCAR winner at Sonoma Raceway.

Carl Edwards held off a late push by Jeff Gordon to become the 10th winner of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in the last 10 years after nearly giving up the lead in the last corner, Sunday.

It was a strong run by Gordon at the end, but Edwards was up to the task for one last lap.

“I kind of felt that he would be right there,” Edwards said of Gordon. “I made a couple of mistakes on the final lap. My tires were really worn out. I was having a hard time trying to turn. If I didn’t do everything perfectly, he would close on me and he did.

“I just wanted to get down into 11, get stopped, get turned without getting hit. I’m glad it’s a 110-lap race, not 111. It would have been a tough last lap if it would have had to go one more.”

Gordon said he tried to get by Edwards in the last turn with all he had, getting within a half-car length before Edwards held him off.

“On that last lap, I gave it my best effort and closed up on him, but I drove into (Turn) 11 as hard as I could,” Gordon said. “We weren’t good in 11 anyway. He didn’t overdrive it. I was hoping he might slide up and I’d get a run underneath him.

“On that move, you just want to make the guy overdrive the corner because if you miss the bottom down there, there is a real opportunity for someone to get inside of you. . . . I would have liked to have been a little bit closer to have a shot at him going into 11 on that last lap.”

Gordon also said he probably would have gotten by Edwards if not for a few problems.

“I wish I could have had those last five laps to do over again,” he said. “I started overdriving it a little bit trying to catch him and I made a few mistakes. I had one that really cost me. I thought I could have put a little more pressure on Carl (if I didn’t make those mistakes).”

Edwards, who led the final 26 laps, likes getting the win but also likes the way his team performed on a tough road course.

“It means a lot to me – a lot,” Edwards said. “My road racing progression, it’s been a pretty long climb . . . To be able to come here and win this race 10 years later is really special. A lot of hard work has gone into this and to be locked in the Chase is huge.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gordon’s Hedrick Motorsports’ teammate, had a good car all three days in the Wine Country and wound up third.

“We had a fast car all weekend,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We thought our opportunity to run well here was to pit and get new tires more often than anybody else. With the two wins (earlier) in the season, that allowed us to gamble and get out there in the mess and have newer tires and it paid off. . . . It was a fun day.”

NOTES: With his second-place finish, Gordon upped his points lead over Jimmie Johnson to 580-560. Edwards is sixth with 509, just three behind Brad Keselowski. . . . Pole winner Jamie McMurray wound up in fourth place. . . . Last year’s winner, Martin Truex Jr., was 15th. . . There were a total of six cautions for 19 of the 110 laps. . . .Edwards spent the third-least amount of time on pit road behind Denny Hamlin and Marcos Ambrose. . . . The total purse for Sunday’s race was $5,743,595. . . . Kyle Larson, who won Saturday’s K&N Pro West Series Carneros 200, suffered mechanical problems and finished 28th after starting third. . . . This was Edward’ second win of the season and eighth Top-10 finish. . . . Gordon posted his 18th Top-10 finish at Sonoma in 22 races, including five victories. . . . Austin Dillon (17th) was the highest finishing rookie. . . . AJ Allemdinger led the most laps (35) but ended up 37th. . . . Danica Patrick was 18th after starting 11th.

Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.

Brian Arnold

Brian Arnold

1992 graduate of San Francisco State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism.
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