Toyota/Save Mart 350

Carl Edwards earns first road course win at Sonoma (VIDEO)

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In what has been a tough season overall for Roush Fenway Racing, Carl Edwards has been their most consistent performer. On Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, he gave the Roush camp another boost.

Edwards took the lead on a restart at Lap 86 and kept it the rest of the way to earn his second NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the year in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

The Sonoma triumph is Edwards’ first career win on a road course, and also makes him the track’s 10th different winner in as many races.

Additionally, Sonoma has now spawned a first-time road race winner for the eighth consecutive race.

“That last lap was ugly,” Edwards said to TNT. “I grew up watching Jeff Gordon do well here and so to have him in my [rear view] mirror, it’s very special…This team has been working very hard, the whole group has, and it’s very special to be a part of something like this.

Edwards and his No. 99 team were able to make a two-stop strategy work out for them in a race where multiple strategies took hold.

“Early on, it was bad for us,” crew chief Jimmy Fennig said. “But we pitted at Lap 70 and the caution came out, and it played right in our hands. And when you have somebody like Carl behind the wheel and put him out in front, he’s gonna get it done.”

And adding more prestige to the win, he got it done against Gordon, a five-time Sonoma winner.

Gordon took second from pole sitter Jamie McMurray with nine laps remaining, but appeared to stop making progress when he pulled in around 1.5 seconds behind Edwards.

But the California native mounted one last charge on the final lap, getting close to Edwards at the Turn 11 hairpin before settling for second. With that, Hendrick Motorsports’ five-race winning streak in Sprint Cup points races came to a close.

“That last lap, I gave it my best effort and closed up on him,” Gordon said. “I just drove into [Turn] 11 as hard as I could. We’re weren’t that good going into 11 anyway and he didn’t overdrive it. I was hoping he might slide up and I could get a run underneath him.”

But while HMS was unable to keep their streak going, the team still had a great day. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of fresher tires to charge all the way to third for his first-ever Top 10 result at Sonoma. Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson also did well with sixth and seventh place finishes respectively.

McMurray, who happens to enjoy Hendrick power as a member of Chip Ganassi Racing, finished fourth. But it wasn’t an entirely clean journey for him as he spun around Clint Bowyer in a Lap 81 incident that also collected Kevin Harvick; Bowyer rallied to finish 10th, while Harvick ended up 20th.

Paul Menard followed up his Top-5 at Michigan last weekend with another Top-5 today in Northern California, his third of the season.

Marcos Ambrose, picked by many as a contender for this race, finished eighth after a late fade on worn tires. Edwards’ teammate, Greg Biffle, finished ninth.

Unofficial Results
1. Carl Edwards, led 26 laps
2. Jeff Gordon, led 3 laps
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Jamie McMurray, led 9 laps
5. Paul Menard
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Jimmie Johnson, led 1 lap
8. Marcos Ambrose, led 5 laps
9. Greg Biffle
10. Clint Bowyer, led 5 laps
11. Ryan Newman
12. Kurt Busch
13. Casey Mears
14. Brian Vickers
15. Martin Truex Jr.
16. Joey Logano, led 3 laps
17. Austin Dillon
18. Danica Patrick
19. Tony Stewart
20. Kevin Harvick, led 23 laps
21. David Gilliland
22. Brad Keselowski
23. Aric Almirola
24. Michael McDowell
25. Kyle Busch
26. Denny Hamlin
27. Cole Whitt
28. Kyle Larson
29. Alex Bowman
30. Michael Annett
31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
32. Reed Sorenson
33. Justin Allgaier
34. J.J. Yeley
35. Boris Said
36. David Ragan
37. A.J. Allmendinger, led 35 laps
38. Tomy Drissi

39. Alex Kennedy, Lap 104, Rear Gear
40. Josh Wise, Lap 95, Running
41. Ryan Truex, Lap 91, Running
42. Matt Kenseth, Lap 74, Accident
43. Landon Cassill, Lap 29, Engine

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish

It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.

Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.

As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.

His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.

The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.