Posted By: David Morgan – Follow on Twitter at @damorgan86
June 23, 2013
After coming close to victory several times over the last six years, Martin Truex, Jr. and his No. 56 Napa Toyota team were finally able to seal the deal and win the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in convincing fashion, leading 51 out of 110 laps and winning over five-time Sonoma winner Jeff Gordon by 8.133 seconds. Truex, Jr. breaks a 218 race winless streak dating back to his first career Sprint Cup Series win on June 2, 2007 at Dover, which was the second longest winless streak in NASCAR history. The win also makes Truex, Jr. the ninth different winner in the last nine races and the seventh consecutive first time road course winner at Sonoma Raceway.
The first road course race of the year got off to an unusual start with a rare summer rain in California, rookie Paulie Harraka getting into two other cars on pit road as the pace laps began, Bobby Labonte going behind the wall for engine problems, and Jacques Villeneuve having transmission problems, all before even a single lap was completed. All of the cars were able to make repairs and catch back up to the field before the green flag flew, but that would be just the beginning of what was to come over the next 110 laps.
Marcos Ambrose took the early lead over pole sitter Jamie McMurray, leading the first 18 laps before being passed by Kurt Busch, who had the fastest car on the track at the time. Busch quickly pulled away from the field and looked to be the car to beat until his No. 78 Chevrolet was forced to serve two consecutive pit road speeding penalties after coming in to pit road too fast when making a pit stop on lap 35 and then again when serving his penalty on lap 36, leaving Busch a lap down to the field at that point.
Pit strategy was the order of the day with some teams trying to complete the race on two pit stops, while others were on a three pit stop plan. Over the next 49 laps, the race lead was swapped between six drivers, including: Brad Keselowski, Truex, Jr., Brian Vickers, McMurray, Joey Logano, and Gordon.
The lead changes took place during pit stops and four cautions over those 49 laps. The four cautions consisted of a spin by Danica Patrick in Turn 10 on lap 64; Denny Hamlin getting spun by Tony Stewart in Turn 7 on lap 69, which caused a small grass fire that was quickly extinguished by track workers; an accident at start finish during the restart from the Hamlin-Stewart caution involving Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, and Victor Gonzalez, Jr; and a wreck by Kyle Busch on lap 83 that caused major damage to Busch’s car and set up the final restart.
Truex, Jr. had taken the lead for the third time as Busch spun and was the leader when the field went back to green for the last time on lap 85 and Truex quickly pulled away from the field. As Truex extended his lead, he was being pursued by road course ace, Juan Pablo Montoya, and it looked like Montoya might give Truex a run for his money before he ran out of fuel on the last lap. With Montoya out of the picture, Truex hung on for the win, followed by Gordon in second, Carl Edwards in third, Kurt Busch rebounding for a fourth place finish, and 2012 Sonoma winner Clint Bowyer rounding out the top five.
Jimmie Johnson holds onto the points lead with a 25 point gap over second place Carl Edwards as the series heads to the Bluegrass State for a date at Kentucky Speedway next Saturday night. Continue reading “Martin Truex, Jr. Wins Toyota/Save Mart 350 At Sonoma, Breaks 218 Race Winless Streak”