By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
SONOMA, Calif. - After running a strong qualifying lap at Infineon Raceway, Carl Edwards told the Performance Racing Network he has opted not to defend last year's NASCAR Nationwide Series Bucyrus win at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., as he was scheduled to do.
Rather than make the difficult commute, Edwards will remain in Sonoma and practice his Sprint Cup car in preparation for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon. Edwards leads the Sprint Cup standings by 20 points over second-place Kevin Harvick.
Billy Johnson will take Edwards' place in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford at Road America. Johnson already was in Elkhart Lake to practice Edwards' car while Edwards took care of his Cup duties in Sonoma.
"I think Billy will do a great job," Edwards said. "In the end, this puts us in the best position with both teams to perform well, so I'm grateful to be able to make the change and I feel like we are doing the right thing."
Edwards was 37th fastest in Friday's Sprint Cup practice but improved dramatically in qualifying despite an early draw. He posted a lap at 92.076 at the 1.99-mile road course, and the time stood up until defending race winner Jimmie Johnson, the 18th driver to make a qualifying attempt, surpassed it.
This will be the first Nationwide race without Edwards since June 12, 2005 at Nashville. Edwards had a conflict with the Sprint Cup race at Pocono running the same day, and he won that race. Edwards' streak of 210 consecutive Nationwide races is the longest active streak in the series.
The change was made possible when Edwards' Nationwide sponsor, Fastenal, agreed to the plan.
"I think this shows you just how much our sponsors and our team are able to work together and change things on the fly," Edwards said. "The original plan was for me to miss all of practice in our Sprint Cup car in Sonoma on Saturday, but literally as we finished practice today we found out that Billy Johnson was (tops in first practice in my car) at Road America.
"We also felt like as a team that we needed more practice on the Cup side, so I called the (president and) CEO of Fastenal - Will Oberton - and without any hesitation, he said do what you need to do to have the best result and we are behind you 100 percent. It just shows that Fastenal is truly behind our whole Roush Fenway team, and we have a great relationship to be able to make this change."