After posting his first career road course win at Sonoma Raceway, Carl Edwards couldn’t help but reflect upon his first attempts to learn the art of road racing.
To help him, team owner Jack Roush brought in sports car standout Boris Said, a past winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. That didn’t prevent Edwards from having his issues early on.
“Basically, we ran off in the dirt a bunch all day,” Edwards remembered.
But Edwards learned from those tests with Said and from others over the years like his former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Mark Martin, who won four road course races in his Cup career.
He also learned from watching Jeff Gordon, the all-time road course wins leader in NASCAR history with nine. Five of those nine road course wins for Gordon have come at Sonoma.
So of course, it was Gordon giving Edwards the most grief in the final laps of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday.
As Edwards’ tires began to go away, Gordon drew closer all the way to the final lap, when he came within a few inches of the rear bumper of Edwards’ No. 99 Ford in the last corner.
Luckily for Edwards, he had just enough in the end to hang on and lock himself into the Chase for the Sprint Cup with his second win of 2014.
“I kind of felt he’d be right there,” Edwards said of the charging Gordon. “What I did is I made a couple of mistakes that final lap. My tires were really worn out. I was having a hard time getting the car to turn. And if I didn’t do everything perfectly, he would really close on me, and I didn’t do everything perfectly.
“The biggest thing is I just wanted to get down here to [Turn] 11, get stopped, get turned without getting hit, and I figured if I could do that, it would be okay. But yeah, I’m glad it’s a 110-lap race, not 111. It would have been a tough last lap if we had to go one more.”
The win is Edwards’ 23rd in Sprint Cup competition. But after out-hustling NASCAR’s road racing king, it was clear that this win meant just that little bit more.
“The real special part to me was to stand in Victory Lane at Sonoma and have Jeff Gordon come and give me a handshake as the second place finisher means a lot,” he said.
“I grew up watching Jeff Gordon and specifically watching how he drove this racetrack and all the successes he had here, so I mean, that’s really super. It’s something I’ll never forget.”