Carl Edwards led a Roush Racing sweep of the top four spots in Saturday’s qualifying for the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at California Speedway.
It was the first career pole for Edwards, one of six drivers competing for the final three spots in the Chase for the championship.
“I’m not the greatest qualifier and I’m learning a lot,” said Edwards, who has won two races in his first full season in Cup racing. “I’m really excited to get to start up front in a race that we really need to run well in.”
The 26-year-old Edwards, driving in only his 38th race in NASCAR’s top series, turned a lap of 185.061 mph to beat out Mark Martin’s 184.833 for the top spot in today’s Sony HD 500 at Fontana, Calif. They were followed by the Roush Fords of Kurt Busch at 184.403 and Greg Biffle at 184.370.
The fifth Roush entry, Matt Kenseth, coming off his first win of the year last week in Bristol, qualified 23rd.
With only two races remaining before the start of the 10-race Chase, which looks as if it will include only the drivers in the top 10 in points, eighth-place Edwards is only 84 points ahead of 13th-place Elliott Sadler, the defending race winner.
In between are Ryan Newman, three-time California winner Jeff Gordon, Kenseth and Jamie McMurray.
“I want to win this race,” Edwards said. “But, at the same time, I’m really aware of the points situations. To come out of here and distance myself on the good of 10th place would be awesome.”
•Edwards took control late in the race and drove away to an easy victory in the NASCAR Busch Series race at California Speedway.
Edwards fell to eighth when he made his final pit stop during a caution period on lap 113 of the Ameriquest 300.
But the 26-year-old driver, running full time in both of NASCAR’s top stock car series, charged to the front after the green flag waved again on lap 116 of the 150-lap event. Edwards took the lead on lap 120, passing fellow Cup star Elliott Sadler, and led the rest of the way.
Edwards went on to earn his fourth Busch victory of the season, beating Greg Biffle’s No. 66 Ford to the finish by 1.71 seconds.
Clint Bowyer came on strongly at the end to finish third and, combined with the 15th-place finish by reigning Busch champion Martin Truex Jr., he cut Truex’s points lead to 142.
Edwards passed Reed Sorenson, who finished 12th, and moved into third, trailing Truex by 358 points.
Johnny Sauter finished fourth, followed by Kasey Kahne, Jason Keller and Jason Leffler.
Engine change forces Raikkonen to sixth row
Kimi Raikkonen was quickest in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Italy, but will start today’s race in the sixth row because of an engine-change penalty, a major blow to the Finnish driver’s championship hopes.
Raikkonen covered the Monza circuit in 1 minute, 20.878 seconds, 0.176 seconds quicker than McLaren-Mercedes teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya will start first, with championship leader Fernando Alonso of Renault also on the front row after recording the third-fastest time of 1:21.319.