Because Carl Edwards finished where he started in Sunday's Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, you might think he had an uneventful day. But Edwards' third-place run was anything but that.
“It feels weird to race that hard all day and finish in the same spot you started,” said Edwards, who maintained his second-place position in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points and trimmed the lead of ninth-place finisher Jimmie Johnson to 25. “That's not the true story.
“I actually got passed a lot and passed a lot of folks. Pretty dynamic race – there was a lot that happened.”
Changing track conditions also complicated the equation.
“The handling changed quite a bit throughout the race,” Edwards said. “The tires were a big struggle, which I think makes the racing really good…
“We had a little bit of a fuel issue. We were spilling some fuel, weren't getting the car all the way full, so we were very nervous whether or not we were going to make it to the end.”
With Juan Pablo Montoya running out of fuel on the penultimate lap, Edwards probably didn't have enough gas to survive a green-white-checkered-flag finish – that was one variable he didn't have to confront.
JUST A SUGGESTION
After racing the new Gen-6 car for the first time on a road course, runner-up Jeff Gordon has a note for NASCAR's suggestion box.
“There's one thing I'm going to talk to NASCAR about with this car,” Gordon said after posting a much-needed top five that vaulted him three positions to 13th in the Cup standings. “We don't have the body in the right position for the road courses to turn right. When we go to Watkins Glen, as fast as those right-handers are, we're going to have some issues.
“There's nothing to lean on. You have plenty of grip on the lefts, because the body still has a little bit of rake on the rights. It has nice sideforce for the right side of the car for those left turns, but on the right turns, the cars are just so out of control.”
That's an issue Gordon hopes NASCAR will address.
”I would like to see if there's something they can think about for that,” Gordon said. “But, other than that, I love the Gen-6 car everywhere we go. It's got good grip and drives well and looks great, and I think that – other than those fast right-handers – it was the same here.”
Kurt Busch's No. 78 Chevrolet SS was one of the fastest cars in Sunday's race, but the day started to go haywire for the 2004 Sprint Cup champion during a green-flag pit stop on lap 35.
Busch entered pit road too fast, and NASCAR assessed a pass-through penalty for speeding. Busch compounded the problem by speeding on entry during the pass-through and earned a stop-and-go penalty that left him a lap down.
Busch regained the lost lap when race winner Martin Truex Jr. came to pit road on lap 62, and a caution on the following circuit gave him a chance to begin a methodical climb through the field.
“Yeah, we were fast, even on pit road – twice,” Busch quipped. “I messed up, flat out. I didn't hit my tachometer right, and I was speeding both times. It was one of those (times) where I'm like, ‘How does this happen?'…
“We did get back on the lead lap when (Truex) pitted, but we had to battle hard. You've got to rub guys and move guys, and we gave guys room and just made one mistake (during the charge through the field). I think we could have gotten all the way up to second, but we never would have caught Truex.”