Holding off a charging Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards won the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.
Edwards took the lead on a restart with 25 laps to go, and initially built up a comfortable margin only to see Gordon slowly reel him in. When Edwards locked up his brakes entering the final turn on the last lap, Gordon attempted a dive-bomb pass but was unsuccessful with Edwards powering off the corner to secure the victory.
"I'm a fan of this sport and I grew up watching Jeff Gordon go through those esses and watching how he drove his car, so to be able to hold him off like that means a lot," Edwards said. "I'm glad there weren't one or two more laps in the race because I don't know if it would have worked out that way. But it definitely meant a lot to have Jeff Gordon in my mirror."
Had Gordon won, it would have extended Hendrick Motorsports' winning streak to six races. Instead, it was Edwards of Roush Fenway posting his second victory of the year and his first on a road course.
Edwards is rumored to be leaving Roush at the end of the season to join Joe Gibbs Racing. Although Edwards refuses to discuss his contract publicly, it is expected JGR will expand to four cars for 2015 and team Edwards with Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., pole-sitter Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard completed the top five.
An eventful afternoon for Earnhardt culminated with a career-best third-place finish at Sonoma. But the day included contact with Matt Kenseth, who then slammed into an inside retaining wall, ripping the nose off his Toyota.
In his previous 14 starts at the 12-turn road course, Earnhardt never finished better than 11th. Hendrick teammates Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson were sixth and seventh, respectively.
"I got into Matt and jumped that curb and ran into him," Earnhardt said. "It was totally my fault. Just racing a little too hard through there with him and probably should have let him have the spot."