February 25, 2008
FONTANA, Calif. (cbssportsline.com/AP) -- Carl Edwards charged past reigning NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson with 13 laps remaining and won the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 on Monday.
Johnson, winner of the past two series titles, came out of the final pit stop in the lead with 26 laps remaining, but Edwards surged from third to grab the eighth win of his career.
The race was stopped on Sunday because of rain after 87 of the scheduled 250 laps.
Edwards showed good form on his traditional victory backflip in front of the main grandstand after taking the checkered flag in a race that ended under caution when Dale Jarrett spun on the final lap.
Edwards had it all but wrapped up at that point, driving his Roush Fenway Racing No. 99 Ford to a lead of more than four seconds over Johnson. It was his first victory at Fontana but his seventh top-10 finish in eight starts at Auto Club Speedway, formerly known as California Speedway.
"Well, it looked like Jimmie was the guy to beat at the end," Edwards said. "It was fun racing with him. I want to thank Bob (Osborne, the crew chief) and all my teammates for working so hard this winter."
Jeff Gordon, who dominated Sunday's racing, was third. He was followed by Kyle Busch and Roush's Matt Kenseth, who had won the two previous February races at this track. Another Roush driver, Greg Biffle, won this event in 2005.
The Roush Fenway team got off to a slow start with NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow that was introduced with a 16-race schedule in 2007. It was Johnson, Gordon and their Hendrick Motorsports teammates that dominated the CoT race last year.
But, with the new car running the full schedule this season, it appears Roush Fenway has figured it out.
Edwards went into the final round of pit stops under caution on lap 221 while leading. He came out behind Johnson, Gordon and Roush Fenway teammate Jamie McMurray.
He quickly passed McMurray after the green flag waved for the start of lap 225 and set out after the leaders, passing Gordon for second on lap 233 and moving alongside Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet on lap 236.
They stayed side-by-side for almost two laps before Edwards nosed ahead and then began to pull away.
"Carl Edwards was in another league. We've got some work to do to catch those guys," said Gordon, whose engine blew seconds before the last of 12 caution flags in the race froze the field and assured his third-place finish.
Gordon, a four-time NASCAR champion, and teammate Johnson, who finished 1-2 in points last year, got off to a tough start last week at Daytona. They finished 39th and 27th.
"It's a good rebound from Daytona and we'll roll on," said Johnson, who won 10 races last season. "I was too loose off the corners to do anything with Carl."
Johnson said the new car performed well on the two-mile oval.
"Maybe another practice session would have helped," Johnson added, referring to all the track time lost to rain on Friday and Saturday. "I think it would have helped the whole field."
About 25,000 fans, far short of the approximate 120,000 capacity, showed up Monday, with the sun peeking out from high clouds.
Accidents during Sunday's 87 laps involved Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears, Sam Hornish Jr., Reed Sorenson and Denny Hamlin. Only Mears and Hornish were unable to get back into the action.
The Associated Press News Service