Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s third-place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway was a major achievement for the veteran Hendrick Motorsports driver. The finish was a career best for Earnhardt Jr. at Sonoma and marked the first time in 15 visits that he finished among the top 10. The effort also matched his career-best, road-course finish of third at Watkins Glen in 2003. … Carl Edwards’ win at Sonoma Raceway was Ford Racing’s fifth of the season, which is just one shy of the manufacturer’s total for 2013 with 20 races remaining. … Brendan Gaughan captured his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series win in Saturday’s rain-drenched road course event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Gaughan grabbed the lead after a green/white-checkered restart and held off IZOD IndyCar Series regular Alex Tagliani for the win, which came in his 98th career start. It marked just the third time in Nationwide Series history that grooved rain tires were used in a race, with the previous two occasions coming at the road course in Montreal. … Penske Racing’s Will Power heads into this weekend’s Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader with a 39-point lead over teammate Helio Castroneves in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. Power is the only driver to finish in the top 10 of all eight races this season, including second in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. … Ryan Hunter-Reay finished first or second in four of the first five races, including a victory in the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, but he has struggled of late with three consecutive finishes outside the top 10. The slump has dropped him to third in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, 21 behind Castroneves and 60 behind Power. … IZOD IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato’s 2014 Indianapolis 500 special-edition helmet, signed by him and team owner A.J. Foyt, garnered $15,675 in the ‘With you Japan’ online charity auction. The “With you Japan” program was founded by Sato in 2011 after the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated the island country’s north eastern coast, killing over 15,000 people and leaving over 300,000 people homeless. All proceeds raised through the program provide hope and inspiration to the children of the affected area of Japan.
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