On Sunday afternoon Martin Truex Jr finally found his way back to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory lane by winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. The win is the second of Truex's career but the first since June 4, 2007 at Dover.
Truex inherited the lead on lap 82 of 110 caution when drivers in front of him pitted for their last stop of the race. From there Truex pulled away to a comfortable lead and became the seventh straight first-time road course winner at Sonoma Raceway.
"I can't even put it into words, I got so many people to thank that have stuck with me," Truex Jr said in victory lane. "Everybody at NAPA Auto Parts, everybody at Toyota Racing, Michael (Waltrip, team co-owner), Rob (Kauffman, team co-owner), and Chad (Johnston, crew chief). We've been close a lot and it feels damn good to get one finally."
As the race winded down Truex, who led a race high 51 laps, had built a six second lead over Juan Pablo Montoya and just hoped a late caution would not come out to wipe away his lead. It didn't and Truex Jr got to celebrate.
Montoya on the other hand ran out of gas on the final lap and coasted to a 34th place finish instead of the runner-up spot.
Jamie McMurray was on the pole but before the race could went green there were numerous issues. Bobby Labonte pulled behind the wall because of oil pressure and a radiator issue in the No. 47 Toyota. On pit road as the cars filed out to the track Paulie Harraka, ran into the back of Alex Kennedy when the line stopped moving behind David Reutimann. Both drivers would start their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race with damaged cars. Jacques Villeneuve also had an issue and dropped a lot of fluid from his No. 51 Chevrolet on pit road that had to be cleaned up. There were also some rain drops falling.
When the race did go green Marcos Ambrose beat Jamie McMurray to the top of the hill and Turn 2 and grabbed the lead. Bobby Labonte did join the field for the green but on lap 2 pulled off with engine issues. He finished 43rd.
On lap 3 David Stremme got into David Ragan in Turn 11 and Ragan spun. No caution came out. Then on lap 4 Kyle Busch was running eighth when Juan Pablo Montoya wheel hopped and spun the No. 18 Toyota in Turn 11. Busch dropped back to 27th after the spin and it was the start of a bad day for him. The first caution then came out on lap 6 when Paulie Harraka crashed. He finished 39th after losing several laps while his team made repairs.
On the lap 8 restart Marcos Ambrose jumped to a lead and Kurt Busch followed him into second. On lap 19 Kurt Busch passed Marcos Ambrose in Turn 7 for the first lead change of the race. Also on lap 19 Danica Patrick spun in Turn 7.
The second caution flew on lap 25 due to some light rain. Jeff Gordon, who was running ninth, tried to hit pit road before it was closed but was about one second too late and had to restart at the back of the field. It was a gamble that would have put the No. 24 team in front of all the cars that pitted under the caution. Twelve cars stayed out which made the running order Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Juan Montoya, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Burton, and Aric Almirola for the lap 31 restart once the rain had stopped.
On the restart Joey Logano got into David Reutimann and spun him out. Alex Kennedy then received damage in the mix up and stopped on the track to bring out the third caution. He finished 40th only ahead of Jacques Villeneuve, JJ Yeley, and Bobby Labonte.
Most of the drivers that did not pit on the previous caution did so this time but not Kurt Busch. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were caught speeding entering the pits and had to restart in the back. On the lap 34 restart Kurt Busch led over Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola, and Martin Truex Jr. Keselowski took the lead from Busch in Turn 7 and then on lap 35 Kurt Busch made his first pit stop.
The driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet was caught speeding entering the pits and forced to do a pass through penalty. He also speed entering on that and then was forced to do a stop and go penalty. That put Busch one lap down on the 1.99 mile road course.
On lap 41 Truex took his first lead by passing Keselowski in Turn 7. At lap 55 the halfway point in the race Truex Jr led over Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, and Jimmie Johnson. Truex then pitted from the lead on lap 62 for a scheduled stop which gave the lead to Vickers.
The fourth caution then flew on lap 63 when Danica Patrick spun out in Turn 10 due to a flat tire. Ten drivers stayed out and the running order for the lap 67 restart was Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, and Brad Keselowski in the top five. Truex immediately grabbed the lead by Turn 1.
On lap 68 Denny Hamlin was spun by Tony Stewart entering Turn 4. Hamlin went into the grass which caught fire as he drove away. That brought out the fifth caution. Five drivers did not pit this time which gave the lead to Joey Logano with Dale Earnhardt Jr second, Boris Said third, Jeff Gordon fourth, and Travis Kvapil fifth for the lap 71 restart.
That restart really never happened when the field stacked up and Victor Gonzalez Jr hit the front stretch wall to bring out the sixth caution. The race then went green on lap 74 and Jamie McMurray suffered a flat tire and went off the track in Turn 3. He ended up with a 25th place finish. On lap 79 Jeff Gordon took the lead for the first time from Joey Logano and on lap 80 with 30 laps to go Gordon led over Logano, Earnhardt, Truex, and Kenseth.
The seventh caution then came out on lap 82 when Carl Edwards got into Kyle Busch Turn 8. That sent Busch into the tire barrier and damaged the No. 18 Toyota. The top 15 cars for the lap 86 restart stayed on the track while others like Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano pitted for their last stop.
Martin Truex Jr inherited the lead and was able to get a good restart. Matt Kenseth was second, Juan Montoya third, Greg Biffle fourth, and Marcos Ambrose fifth. Jimmie Johnson was the first car off pit road with two tires and he restarted 16th with Logano in 17th and Gordon back in 18th with four new tires.
On lap 87 Josh Wise got into David Stremme and spun him in Turn 7. Then on lap 88 Kyle Busch spun once again in Turn 7. He finished in 35th one lap down. On lap 90 Tony Stewart got into Jeff Burton in Turn 11 and both spun while running in the top 10. Burton finished 31st and Stewart 28th. The caution did not come out for any of those spins which was good for Truex who was building a lead but cars with fresher tires were charging like Jeff Gordon who was up to third with 10 laps to go.
There were no more on track issues until the final lap when Montoya ran out of gas running second.
Truex scored the impressive win over Jeff Gordon who rallied all the way to second but well behind Truex. Carl Edwards finished in third and Kurt Busch rallied to take fourth after overcoming his speeding penalties. Clint Bowyer was strong late and grabbed fifth with Kasey Kahne sixth, Marcos Ambrose seventh, Greg Biffle, eighth, Jimmie Johnson ninth, and Kevin Harvick tenth.
Joey Logano was 11th, Dale Earnhardt Jr 12th, Brian Vickers 13th, Paul Menard 14th, Ryan Newman 15th, Casey Mears 16th, Travis Kvapil 17th, Boris Said 18th, Matt Kenseth 19th, and Aric Almirola 20th. Brad Keselowski was 21st, Ron Fellows 22nd, Denny Hamlin 23rd, David Gilliland 24th, Jamie McMurray 25th, David Reutimann 26th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr 27th, Tony Stewart 28th, Danica Patrick 29th, Justin Marks 30th, Jeff Burton 31st, Josh Wise 32nd, David Ragan 33rd, and Juan Montoya in 34th as the last lead lap car. Kyle Busch was 35th, David Stremme 36th, Victor Gonzalez Jr 37th, Tommy Drissi 38th, Paulie Harraka 39th, Alex Kennedy 40th, Jacques Villeneuve 41st, JJ Yeley 42nd, and Bobby Labonte 43rd.
Jimmie Johnson leads the points after 16 races by 25 over Carl Edwards and 45 over Clint Bowyer. Kevin Harvick is fourth, Matt Kenseth fifth, Greg Biffle sixth, Dale Earnhardt Jr seventh, Kyle Busch eighth, Brad Keselowski ninth, and Martin Truex Jr has moved into tenth. He is eight points ahead of Kasey Kahne who is 11th. Kahne holds the first Wild Card spot due to his win. Paul Menard is in 12th, Jeff Gordon 13th, Joey Logano 14th and Tony Stewart 15th. Stewart holds the second Wild Card spot due to his win.
The next race up is on Saturday night June 29th at Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400.
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