Observations• It would be easy to write off Carl Edwards or Roush Fenway Racing this season for two reasons – Edwards is likely to leave the organization at season’s end and the organization has been struggling of late with on-track performance. Sunday, Edwards showed neither he nor RFR are going away quietly as he earned his first victory on a road course in the Sprint Cup Series and just the second for RFR. With two victories now, Edwards will be one of the top seeds to start this season’s Chase and a excellent opportunity to win his first series championship.
• Who says a good attitude doesn’t help? Dale Earnhardt Jr. had never finished in the Top 10 at Sonoma heading into this weekend. But unlike other seasons, Earnhardt was assured of a spot in the Chase thanks to his two victories already and NASCAR’s new Chase format. Earnhardt talked of coming out to Sonoma with nothing to lose and he ended up with a career-best finish of fifth. He may not have gotten the most popular driver award in the race from Matt Kenseth and A.J. Allmendinger, but it’s hard to argue with the result.
• Sonoma was the third consecutive Cup series race weekend with excellent weather each day – quite a dramatic and welcomed change from the first several weeks of the 2014 season.
Gordon likes the honors, but : Carl Edwards was very complimentary of the honor in winning his first road course race by outdueling the Cup series’ road course master, Jeff Gordon.
Gordon appreciated the kind words, but would prefer the victory instead.
“I’m starting to hear that a lot more when somebody was born when I won my first championship or was watching me as a kid,” said Gordon, who finished second and remains the series points leader.
“I love being competitive and leading the points and having a shot at winning races at 22 years into my Cup career. It doesn’t matter.”
Menard on a roll: Paul Menard has consecutive top-five finishes for the first time this season thanks to his fifth-place finish Sunday at Sonoma and his fouerth last weekend at Michigan.
He has also finished in the Top-10 in five of his last seven races.
“The first run was pretty brutal actually. We got really loose, and the guys tightened it up with some air pressure and we got a lot better,” he said. “From then on we were a 10th place car and drove up to a top-five with tires.”
A familiar story: Having the fastest car hasn’t always been good news for Kevin Harvick this season. Twice he’s led the most laps and ended up finishing second.
On Sunday he led 23 laps (third-most) and was in contention for the win until he lost several positions on a pit stop then was caught up in an accident with Clint Bowyer.
“Today was just another day with the fastest car,” he said. “We had a chance to win the race and kind of flubbed it up again. Just got ourselves bad track position and crashed.”
He had a shot: A.J. Allmendinger looked like he was in good position to earn JTG Daugherty its first win in the Cup series on Sunday, after leading 35 of the first 53 laps fo the race.
On a restart on Lap 86, he suffered serious damage to his No. 47 Toyota in an incident with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It’s just disappointing the way our day ended and to leave Sonoma with a car that’s tore up,” he said. “It’s just tough.”
Five key moments
1. A.J. Allmendinger passed Jamie McMurray for the lead on Lap 9 and led a race-high 35 laps.
2. Carl Edwards passed Marcos Ambrose on a restart on Lap 86 to take the lead for the first time in the race.
3. On the same restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Allmendinger made contact, which did serious damage to Allmendinger’s car and effectively ended his day.
4. Jeff Gordon moved into second place on Lap 103 and slowly began to run down Edwards, who had built up a sizable lead.
5. Gordon made up significant ground on Edwards on the final lap and nearly caught him in Turn 11, but Edwards held on for the win.