Sonoma victory meaningful on several fronts for Carl Edwards

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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.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.