For much of Sunday’s 110-lap race at Infineon Raceway, it appeared five-time Sonoma winner Jeff Gordon and Spring Cup Series points leader Carl Edwards were going to finish mid-pack without much attention.
Yet when the checkered flag fell, Gordon and Edwards battled for the second spot with the No. 24 Chevrolet getting the advantage through the final corner.
Running outside the top 10 for much of the afternoon, both Gordon and Edwards were able to capitalize when Brian Vickers wrecked Tony Stewart on Lap 88. Staying out while others headed to pit road, both drivers restarted inside the top 10 and began to work their way forward on the restart.
"Early in the race we were terrible – we were back there mired in the back, all the other terrible racecars like Jeff Gordon's," Edwards said with a laugh.
Struggling throughout the entire weekend, Edwards made the decision to stay in Sonoma and not travel to Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Road America. Describing the decision as "the call of the weekend," Edwards said committing his time to the Sprint Cup car was what led to Sunday’s strong finish.
"It was tough to watch the race," he said. "But I think staying was the right decision. It paid off today. It was a good call. We could have finished poorly here, ended up on the fence over there like Tony (Stewart) did or something. Anything can happen. It turned out to be the right call and it paid off, so it was a great move."
For Gordon, the real difference in Sunday’s race was the patience that comes with being a veteran in the Sprint Cup Series. While others began to struggle with grip late in the going, the track seemed to come to Gordon and he was able to capitalize. Making major adjustments to the car throughout the race, the nine-time road course winner explained patience was the biggest reason he earned a solid finish.
"You’ve got to keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble," Gordon said. "There were a lot of guys doing some silly things that were wrecking and costing themselves a whole race instead of just trying to survive.
"When the car is like that, you kind of have to give up the spots and not fight the guys off too much, which is just the toughest thing to do. ... We just were patient and that’s part of being old. I’m going to be 40 this year and I’m more patient nowadays than I used to be."
As a result of their solid finishes on a not-so-solid day, Edwards was able to grow his points lead, while Gordon climbed back into the top 10.