By Mike Harris
FONTANA, Calif. - The latest race-winning performance by Carl Edwards was no surprise to his team's co-owner.
"Carl is approaching the top of his game and I hope we'll be able to keep him there for a long time," Jack Roush said Monday after Edwards charged from third place late in the race to grab a victory in the rain-delayed Auto Club 500.
For Edwards, his eighth Cup victory was a sign that he is back to the form that saw him win four races and finish third in the points in 2005, his first full season in Cup. It was also a signal that at least one Sprint Cup team is ready to take on Hendrick Motorsports.
Edwards finished ahead of Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. In a race that resumed with the 88th of 250 laps, Edwards assumed the lead for good with 13 laps left.
"I hope it's an indication we've caught up with them," Edwards said after the eighth victory of his career. "They still were second and third and they were the guys to beat today. I hope this is a sign we're up to their standards, to their level."
Johnson took the green flag for the final restart in the lead with 26 laps left, but Edwards surged from third.
He then showed fine form on his traditional victory backflip after capturing 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 No. 99 Ford to a lead of more than 4 seconds over Johnson. It was his first victory at Fontana but his seventh top-10 finish in eight starts at the track formerly known as California Speedway.
Gordon, who dominated Sunday's rain-interrupted racing, finished 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.
A year ago, Johnson and Gordon ended 1-2 in the season points. Johnson won his second straight Cup title and the team rolled up 18 victories in 36 races. The Hendrick contingent also won nine of the 16 races in which NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow was raced.