Tire wear was a big factor at Sonoma on Sunday. But ultimately, track position proved to be more vital.
Carl Edwards worked his way to the front of the field in the second half of the race thanks to a two-stop pit strategy and held off Jeff Gordon for his second win of the season and Edwards' first-ever road course win.
Track position is always important at NASCAR's road courses, and crew chiefs typically work the race "backwards" to stop for tires and fuel as few times as possible. However, the tires were wearing so quickly over the weekend at the wine country track that it was possible the additional speed gained from fresh tires an additional stop could override a driver on older tires who had stopped twice.
Because of the timing of caution flags it didn't happen, as Edwards' final pit stop came before a caution flag on lap 72. As Edwards was still on the lead lap after pitting and drivers ahead of him hit pit lane under caution, he found himself near the front of the field. He took the lead off a restart on lap 86 and never lost it.
Throughout the entire race, Edwards didn't have one of the fastest cars. But it was consistent, and that consistency paid off as Gordon wasn't able to completely close the gap that Edwards had opened up off the final restart.
"Real tough. That last lap was ugly. I grew up watching Jeff Gordon do well here so to have him in my mirror is special," Edwards said.
"This team has been working very hard. The whole group has. It's very special to be a part of something like this.
And of course, Edwards' win adds kindling to NASCAR's most-burning off-track topic in 2014: Edwards' contract status. How does the victory affect Edwards' chances of re-signing with Roush, or does it have any affect at all?
Edwards' contract with Roush Fenway Racing is up at the end of the season and if he leaves Roush, Joe Gibbs Racing is a likely destination, as the team has a capacity for a fourth car. Before the race on Sunday, JGR President J.D. Gibbs told the AP that he couldn't comment on Edwards and the AP also reported Edwards has a stipulation in his Roush contract that prevents any announcement of a new contract with a different team from happening until September.
If nothing has been decided on the contract front, a second win can't hurt. Besides breaking a five-race winning streak for Hendrick Motorsports, Edwards is now one of five drivers to have multiple wins in 2014. He's guaranteed to be Chasing in September. And maybe we'll know his future team by then too.
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