September 22, 2023

How Martin Truex Jr. again dominated the NASCAR Cup race at Sonoma

nascar cup series toyota save mart 350

How Martin Truex Jr. NASCAR dominated at SonomaSean Gardner-Getty Images

  • Martin Truex Jr. earned his second win of the NASCAR Cup season and his fourth on the 1.99-mile road course, the most among active drivers.

  • The only driver with more track wins is Jeff Gordon with five.

  • Truex led 51 of the 110 laps.

What a difference a year makes.

After struggling mightily at Sonoma Raceway last year in the debut season for NASCAR’s Next Gen car, Martin Truex Jr. a dominant 180-degree turnaround in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Truex overcame an inconvenient caution and led a race-high 51 of 110 laps, taking his second win of the season and his fourth on the 1.99-mile road course, most among active drivers and second to Jeff Gordon’s five in job history.

Truex’s 33rd win, by a margin of 2.979 seconds over runner-up Kyle Busch, was a far cry from last season’s lackluster performance, when Truex started 28th and finished 26th.

“Hats off to my team,” said Truex, who was winless in the 2022 campaign. “To be this bad here last year and to come back and do it with the same car is really incredible. Just proud of them. We’re having a great year. I feel really good in our team…

nascar cup series toyota save mart 350

Martin Truex Jr. took victory No. 33 in the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday in California.Sean Gardner-Getty Images

“Man, it just feels incredible to have a day like that and run like that and a team like me. They do everything right, and it’s a lot of fun to drive these cars… That’s why you go through years like last year. You just keep fighting. You never give up. You always believe in each other.

“We haven’t changed anything about our team except parts and parts. It’s just the hard work of a lot of people.”

On lap 33, Truex passed Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and pole winner Denny Hamlin for first place, after Hamlin led the first 32 laps and won the first leg of the race. For the next 18 rounds, it looked like Truex and Hamlin would give the rest of the field a 1-2 blow.

That was before a tire on Zane Smith’s Ford bounced off the inside of the pit wall in the middle of pit lane on lap 50. The resulting caution turned the race upside down and gave the lead to Busch, who had run seven laps before the yellow pit stop.

Busch won the second stage—his second stage win of the season—but Truex took the No. 8 Chevrolet on lap 69, slowing Busch into turn 7 and regaining the lead. Truex pitted on lap 75, but retook first place five laps later and held it until Hamlin hit the wall at turn 12 on lap 92, ping ponging between the two front stretch barriers and breaking the right rear toe joint of his Toyota.

Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney were left out on older tires during the ensuing caution, but Truex made short work of those drivers and retook the lead at Turn 4 on lap 97, as Busch followed him into second.

Busch chased Truex for the last 14 laps – to no avail.

“I wish we had a little more,” said Busch, who won at World Wide Technology Raceway last Sunday. “In the end I did my very best to at least keep Martin honest. I felt like if I could beat him a little bit in a round then I would mess it up. He would beat me a little bit more in the next round. We were just kind of trading there. He was able to leave there late…

“We gave everything we had. We made a lot of changes. There we were lucky with yellow with only three laps on tires, so we were able to cycle a little bit forward. Once we got there we were able to keep up with some of the good cars and have a good top-three race car Just kind of flip-flop the race a little bit.

“Good luck for us. Nice to come out here with a P2 after a win last week.”


NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350

Sonoma Raceway

1. (8) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 110.

2. (12) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 110.

3. (17) Joey Logano, Ford, 110.

4. (7) Chris Buescher, Ford, 110.

5. (10) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 110.

6. (5) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 110.

7. (3) Michael McDowell, Ford, 110.

8. (16) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 110.

9. (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 110.

10. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 110.

11. (21) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 110.

12. (13) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 110.

13. (22) Ryan Preece, Ford, 110.

14. (26) William Byron, Chevrolet, 110.

15. (14) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 110.

16. (25) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 110.

17. (18) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 110.

18. (6) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 110.

19. (11) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 110.

20. (19) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 110.

21. (23) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 110.

22. (9) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 110.

23. (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 110.

24. (32) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 110.

25. (34) Austin Cindric, Ford, 110.

26. (35) Grant Enfinger(i), Chevrolet, 110.

27. (36) Harrison Burton, Ford, 110.

28. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 110.

29. (24) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 110.

30. (29) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 110.

31. (31) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 110.

32. (28) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 109.

33. (2) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 109.

34. (30) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 109.

35. (33) Andy Lally, Ford, 109.

36. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 92.

Average speed of the race winner: 81,989 mph.

Race time: 2 hours, 40 minutes, 12 seconds. Margin of profit: 2,979 seconds.

Warning Flags: 2 for 6 rounds.

Lead Changes: 10 out of 6 drivers.

tour guides: D. Hamlin 1-32;M. Truex Jr. 33-50; D. Hamlin 51; K. Busch 52-68;M. Truex Jr. 69-74;M. McDowell 75;C. Elliott 76-79;M. Truex Jr. 80-92;R. Chastain 93;C. Elliott 94-96;M. Truex Jr. 97-110.

Leaders overview (driver, times lead, laps led): Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 51 rounds; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 33 rounds; Kyle Busch 1 time for 17 rounds; Chase Elliott 2 times for 7 rounds; Ross Chastain 1 time for 1 round; Michael McDowell 1 time for 1 round.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,19,20,16,34,45,17,54,48,47

Stage #2 Top Ten: 8,22,1,24,47,3,19,34,20,4

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