SPRINT Auto Club 500Final
Edwards continues Roush Fenway dominance at CaliforniaFeb 25, 2008 - 10:42 PM FONTANA, California (Ticker) -- Not even the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut has an answer to Roush Fenway Racing when it comes to racing at California in February.
Carl Edwards passed Hendrick's Jimmie Johnson with 13 laps remaining Monday afternoon and cruised to an easy victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
It was the fourth straight win for Roush Fenway at this event, as Matt Kenseth was the two-time defending champion of this 250-lap event and Greg Biffle took the checkered flag in 2005.
Edwards averaged 132.704 miles per hour in a Ford Fusion and earned $340,500 for his eighth career win on NASCAR's top circuit. He took the checkered flag ahead of the Hendrick duo of Johnson and Jeff Gordon under caution as Dale Jarrett's Toyota hit the wall on the final lap.
"Carl Edwards was in another league," Gordon said. "We've got some work to do to catch those guys."
Ironically, it had been Roush Fenway that had been trying to keep pace with Hendrick, which won a second consecutive series title with Johnson last season and also placed Gordon and Kyle Busch in the 2007 Chase for the Championship.
The Roush Fenway drivers also struggled last season with NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow, which debuted in 16 races in 2007 and has been permanently instituted for all events this year.
But at California, the Roush Fenway Fords seemed to have turned the corner, as Kenseth finished fifth, David Ragan was 14th and Biffle 15th. Jamie McMurray finished 22nd but was running in the top 10 before scraping the wall in the closing laps.
"I hope it's an indication that we've caught up with (Hendrick)," Edwards said. "They were still second and third. They were the guys to beat today. I hope that this is a sign that were up to their standards, to their level. I believe we are."
Johnson started from the pole after qualifying was rained out on Friday. He also held the lead when the race re-started Monday, after only 87 laps were completed due to rain the previous day.
Johnson was also in front on lap 224 after the final round of pit stops under the 11th caution of the race. But it took Edwards only 13 laps to chase down Johnson to take the lead for good.
"I was just trying to go wherever Jimmie wasn't and then he went where I wasn't," Edwards said. "I'm lucky, he was a little bit loose because that would have been really, really tough to get by him if he wasn't so loose. We were very fortunate there."
Gordon caught a break when Jarrett hit the wall in the final lap as his engine blew. Luckily the field was frozen, locking Gordon into a third-place finish.
Johnson and Gordon got off to a tough start last week at the season-opening Daytona 500, finishing 27th and 39th, respectively.
"It's a good rebound from Daytona and we'll roll on," Johnson said. "I was too loose off the corners to do anything with Carl."
Busch brought his Toyota home fourth for the second straight week to take the top spot in the point standings. He leads Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman by six points two races into the season. Newman finished 10th Monday in a Dodge.
On Sunday before the race was postponed, two separate early crashes that included Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were blamed on wet track conditions, as water seeped through the seams of the two-mile track.
Hamlin lost control and hit the wall on lap 14. Later, Casey Mears slid through water on lap 21 and collected Hendrick teammate Earnhardt. That caused former open-wheel star Sam Hornish Jr. to plow into Reed Sorenson.
With his hood crumpled up and bocking his vision, Hornish slammed into Mears, flipping his Chevrolet on its side. Of those drivers, only Earnhardt and Hamlin returned to action on Monday, finishing 40th and 41st, respectively.
The race featured 11 cautions, tying a track record, totaling 43 laps.
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