ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Carl Edwards swooped past Jacques Villeneuve on a restart with nine laps to go, then ran away from the field to win the NASCAR Nationwide series race Saturday at Road America.
Villeneuve made a wild charge to the lead with 12 laps to go. But another caution bunched up the field, allowing Edwards, a Columbia native, to make his decisive move.
Ron Fellows finished second in a Chevrolet, 4.302 seconds behind Edwards' Ford. Brendan Gaughan finished third in a Toyota. Villeneuve had mechanical problems in the closing laps, costing him a potential second-place finish.
Edwards, Paul Menard and Brad Keselowski will fly back to California to run the Sprint Cup race Sunday at Sonoma.
And for the third year in a row, Edwards made the most of his cross-country commute.
It was Edwards' third straight win in the series' annual trip to Wisconsin — but this time at a new venue. The scenic four-mile road course replaced the financially troubled Milwaukee Mile on the schedule this season.
For a while, it looked like Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One champion and 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner, might steal the show.
After taking a restart with 12 laps to go, Villeneuve charged from eighth to first in half a lap, with Edwards right behind him. Villeneuve's tire was smoking significantly, as it appeared to be rubbing against damaged bodywork on the front end of his car.
Yet another crash brought out another caution, and Villeneuve took a restart with nine laps remaining not knowing if his tire would hold up for the remainder of the race. Edwards then roared past Villeneuve and into the lead in Turn 1, and Villeneuve — his tire still smoking — tried to chase him down.
Another wreck set up a restart with three to go, allowing Fellows, a veteran road-racing ace, to pass Gaughan for third. Villeneuve was in second with two laps to go, but began to slip back in the pack with mechanical issues and finished 25th.
Keselowski, who came into Saturday's race leading the series points standings, finished fourth.
The race was filled with several long delays to clean up accidents, including a red flag period lasting more than half an hour after a nine-car pileup just past the race's halfway point.
In all, it was a mixed debut for the Nationwide series at the picturesque, fast and technically challenging 14-turn road course that winds through the tree-lined hills of central Wisconsin.
As expected, the on-track action was entertaining. But on a four-mile track, any full-course caution period made for an extended break in the action.
That included a big wreck on lap 30, when a nine-car pileup in Turn 6 brought the race to a halt under a red flag — a Talladega-style "big one" on a road course. Racing resumed after a delay of 31 minutes, 31 seconds under the red flag.