Driving the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, Truex Jr. was the one to beat today as he led 51 of the 100 lap race. Gordon finished second when Montoya ran out of fuel and had to coast to the checkered flag.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup Series action at Sonoma Raceway on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, Martin Truex Jr. came home the victor, winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 by a margin of eight seconds over runner-up Jeff Gordon.
The New Jersey native navigated the challenging 1.99-mile road course with ease, leading 51 of the 100 laps.
Truex captured his second career Sprint Cup victory in 277 tries after his first victory in 2007 at Dover. In winning the challenging race, he broke his 218-race winless streak, the second longest in series history.
“I can’t put this win into words,” Truex said. “This team is phenomenal. We have had some tough luck, so it feels good to get a win. We learned a lot from Clint (Bowyer) from last year. I am so glad this thing (the win) is out of the way, as we have been so close. Now, I think we can win a bunch more.
“It is a fine line here between running hard and not hard enough. I wanted to run hard enough to keep matching the guys behind me. I was trying to be smart and trying to be smooth in case we had a caution. In the last 15 laps, I was thinking, ‘Please no caution; please no caution.’ I just focused on hitting my marks and not screwing up.”
The victor drove the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, giving the Michael Waltrip Racing team its second consecutive win at Sonoma.
Second went to Jeff Gordon, who inherited the spot after Juan Pablo Montoya ran out of fuel on the last go-around. The latter coasted around the track to end up 34th.
“We had a great strategy, and we were awesome in the pits,” Gordon said. “We had a very fast race car and while we wanted to make it a three-stop race, we took a gamble with the rain coming. But we missed the call to come to the pits at the last second when they threw the caution, and that got us behind (dropping him to 37th). From that point on, the strategy was spot-on and everything else was fantastic. In many ways, I enjoyed driving the car up through there, but I also thought we had a shot at winning the race.”
Gordon has now scored eight straight top-10 finishes.
While he was pleased with the Gen-6 car, he doesn’t believe the cars turn smoothly to the right and plans on making recommendations to NASCAR prior to the next road course race in August on the faster course at Watkins Glen. “There’s nothing to lean on; you have plenty of grip on left but on right turns, the cars are out of control. Other than that I like these cars.”
Carl Edwards garnered third place after starting third.
“It feels weird to race that hard all day and end up in the same spot you started,” he commented. “But it doesn’t tell the true story as I passed a lot of folks and a lot of them passed me. It was a pretty dynamic race as the handling changed a lot during the race.”
Regarding a brush with Kyle Busch, Edwards offered an apology. “I feel bad about the incident with Kyle Busch. I took a gamble, thinking he knew I was there, but I ended up wrecking him.”
Kyle Busch ended up far off the pace after a troubled race day. He was scored 35th and dropped two positions in points.
Fourth and fifth were Kurt Busch, who battled adversity for the strong finish, and 2012 winner Clint Bowyer. The latter was dejected with the outcome, feeling he had the best car.
The elder Busch got caught speeding on pit road twice, much to his chagrin. “It was my bad, as I didn’t manage my tach (tachometer) right. Even if we did not have those mistakes, (Martin) Truex was going to be hard to catch, but we did battle back for a top-five.”
The rest of the top-10 finishers were Kasey Kahne, Marco Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.
Joey Logano and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. were 11th and 12th.
In the all-important Sprint Cup point report, Johnson leads Edwards by 25 with Bowyer 45 back. Harvick trails the leader by 63 with Matt Kenseth fifth 92 back.
Biffle, Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Truex round out the top-10. Truex advanced three spots with his victory.
Seven full-course caution flags slowed the race for 19 laps. Six were for spins and crashes and one was for rain, slowing the event for six laps.
The Series travels to the Kentucky Speedway next weekend.