By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
Welcome to the club, Carl.
To a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver who hasn't won on a road course, that hole in the resume is almost as gaping as the absence of a championship.
Remember how elated Jimmie Johnson was when he won at Sonoma in 2010? Ditto for Carl Edwards on Sunday afternoon. Because a victory at a road course adds to the full measure of a "complete" driver, it's a highly coveted trophy.
Here's the way drivers think about it, using one of Brad Keselowski's favorite analogies. Asking a driver to win on a restrictor-plate track, and intermediate downforce speedway, a short track and a road course is akin to asking Peyton Manning to play quarterback, running back, tight end and wide receiver on successive weekends.
For a driver, the skill sets are different, too, and never more different than they are between an oval and a road course.
That's why Edwards was so thrilled that 10 years of hard work on road courses had finally paid off. That's why keeping road course ace Jeff Gordon behind him in the closing laps enhanced his level of satisfaction exponentially.
Admittedly, the membership of the once-exclusive club has grown significantly in recent years, as more drivers have stressed road course performance. But as Edwards will tell you, it's far better to have a road course victory among your list of accomplishments than to go through a career feeling your resume is somehow incomplete.
10: The number of consecutive different winners in the last 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events at Sonoma Raceway. That's a clear indication of just how far the competitive level of road course racing within the series has come over the last decade.
5: The number of runner-up finishes posted by Jeff Gordon at Sonoma, equaling his number of wins. Gordon's last victory at the 1.99-mile road course came in 2006. He has finished second in three of the last four races there.
5: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers with multiple wins this season and hence guaranteed to be among the top 16 winners. With his second victory of the season on Sunday, Carl Edwards added his name to a list that already includes Jimmie Johnson (3 wins), Kevin Harvick (2), Joey Logano (2) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2).
9.3: Marcos Ambrose's average finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky Speedway. Admittedly, it's a small sample size (3 races), but the premier road course racer has a better average finish at Kentucky than he does at Watkins Glen (11.2), where he has won twice in six starts..
264: Laps led by Kyle Busch in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season. The good news? Busch was out front for 81 circuits at Dover to top the 10,000 career laps led mark. The bad news? At his current pace, Busch will lead the fewest laps since his second full season in Cup racing (571 in 2006).
Ten to Go: With 10 races at 10 different tracks standing between here and the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. A wide array awaits: 1.5 milers like this Saturday night's race at Kentucky; a restrictor plate track (Daytona); a triangle (Pocono); a road course (Watkins Glen); a short track (Bristol); one of the most historic sporting venues in the world (Indianapolis) -- and more. ... Edwards Locked Into Top Winners List: Edwards, throughout his career, has been a maestro at the big, fast race tracks. If it measured 1.5 or 2 miles, you'd often find him Victory Lane. So it made perfect sense that he locked up a spot among the top 16 winners with a victory at a road course -- such is this fascinatingly unpredictable NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Edwards now needs only to finish in the top 30 in points after race No. 26 and attempt to qualify for each race to officially clinch a Chase spot. ... One To Go For Gordon: Jeff Gordon's prolific career is filled has one hole -- Kentucky Speedway. And it's an understandable hole. After all, the series has only raced there three times. Still, it remains the only track on the current schedule where Gordon has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. If he wins on Saturday night, he'll be the first driver in NASCAR history to win at every track on that respective year's schedule.
"Road-Course Ringer" -- (noun) Temporary driver brought in by a team owner to win road-course race, but leaves shortly thereafter. So technically, Carl Edwards = "road-course ringer."
Kyle Busch finishes 25th. Denny Hamlin finishes 26th. Matt Kenseth gets viciously wrecked and finishes 42nd. But Carl Edwards won, so overall not a bad day for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Anyone who said "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is going to finish in the top 3" would probably receive a snide, dismissive "Go home, you're drunk." Which in wine country isn't necessarily outside the realm of possibility but still...
It's been well documented that Hendrick engines seem to have much more speed than the others. But Tony Stewart should probably stop demonstrating this on pit road.
(Follow @nascarcasm on Twitter. His unique views on NASCAR are his own -- but chances are you have probably figured that out by now.)
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