Sonoma Goes to Martin Truex Jr. on Smart Pit Strategy

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Sonoma is the first road course race of the year for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. Can anyone break the dominance Kevin Harvick(4) and Kyle Busch(18) have shown to date? Harvick is the defending race winner, he starts 6th. Busch qualified 9th. Young gun Kyle Larson(42) sits on the pole today with defending Cup Champion Martin Truex Jr. (78) next to him on the front row.

Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk / Getty Images

Larson took the lead on the start. Three laps in Truex passed Larson and began to drive away. Stage lengths at Sonoma are 25, 25, and 60 laps. With 10 laps to go in Stage 1, Truex built a 3.5-second lead. Harvick moved into 2nd, A.J. Allmendinger(47) sat 3rd, Jimmie Johnson(48) 4th, and Chase Elliott(9) in 5th.

Road course pit strategy always brings some surprises and often jumbles the field. A number of drivers pitted with 3 laps to go in the Stage. Truex and Harvick pitted with 2 laps to go. Allmendinger inherited the lead and held it to the green and white checkered ended the Stage.

Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk / Getty Images

Stage 1 Results

CarDriverStage Points
47Allmendinger10
2Keselowski*9
48Johnson8
9Elliott7
42Larson6
31Newman5
10Almirola*4
19Suarez3
37Buescher2
95Kahne1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

Stage 2

After Stage ending pit stops Truex returned to the lead with Harvick in 2nd. Clint Bowyer(14) ran 3rd, Denny Hamlin(11) 4th, and Joey Logano(22) 5th. After winning his first Stage of the year, Allmendinger missed a shift on Lap 33 and over-revved the engine. The motor could not take the abuse and expired taking A.J out of the race.

Turex, unable to pull away from Harvick, led for the majority of Stage 2. Until with 7 laps to go in the Stage, Harvick drove past the 78 car and took the lead. Again, many teams opted to make stops prior to the pits being closed at the end of the stage. Harvick and Truex both pitted forfeiting the lead to Hamlin.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images

Stage 2 Results

CarDriverStage Points
11Hamlin10
9Elliott9
48Johnson8
2Keselowski*7
12Blaney*6
10Almirola*5
88Bowman4
34McDowell*3
37Buescher2
31Newman1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

The Final Stage

After all the pit stops sorted out at the end of Stage 2 it was again Harvick and Truex back to the front. Bowyer, Kurt Busch(41) and Kyle Busch(18) rounded out the top 5. All race winners this year with the exception of Kurt Busch.

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Green flag pit stops began with 40 laps to go. Harvick pitted with 38 to go, Truex gambled, stayed out and took over the lead. Truex used a pit strategy that meant 1 less stop than the rest of the field. He pitted with 30 laps to go. As pit stops cycled through Harvick returned to the lead about a second ahead of Bowyer. Truex, in third, trailed by 6 seconds, and Kyle Busch 8 seconds behind.

With 22 laps to go Truex passed Bowyer and cut Harvick’s lead to 2 seconds. With 20 to go Truex re-took the lead. Harvick, after pitting early, had to make one more pit stop to make it to the end.

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

To the Checkered Flag

With 9 laps to go Harvick moved back into second place. However, Truex led by 24 seconds. If the race goes green to the finish Truex, providing he stays out of trouble, will win. If there is a late caution Harvick has the fresher tires and would be the favorite for the victory.

Martin Truex Jr.’s luck holds out and the pit gamble pays off. He cruises to the win 10 seconds ahead of Harvick. The victory solidifies Truex as a serious championship contender again this year.

Next week it’s Chicagoland Speedway and Series TV coverage switches from Fox to NBC. The Overton’s 400 is scheduled for a 2:30 pm on NBCSN.

 

 

Results of the Sonoma 350

PositionCarDriverBehindLaps
178Martin Truex Jr.110
24Kevin Harvick10.513110
314Clint Bowyer22.079110
49Chase Elliott24.41110
518Kyle Busch26.737110
641Kurt Busch34.294110
720Erik Jones36.66110
810Aric Almirola41.427110
988Alex Bowman46.498110
1011Denny Hamlin48.053110
1148Jimmie Johnson48.343110
1237Chris Buescher53.262110
132Brad Keselowski55.713110
1442Kyle Larson57.722110
1519Daniel Suarez59.287110
163Austin Dillon66.875110
1732Matt DiBenedetto73.73110
1817Ricky Stenhouse Jr.75.925110
1922Joey Logano78.441110
2095Kasey Kahne79.322110
2134Michael McDowell86.688110
2238David Ragan-1109
2396Parker Kligerman-1109
2431Ryan Newman-1109
2524William Byron-1109
2621Paul Menard-1109
276Trevor Bayne-1109
2815Justin Marks-1109
2943Bubba Wallace-1109
3023Gray Gaulding-1109
3151Chris Cook-1109
320Tomy Drissi-2108
3313Ty Dillon-4106
3412Ryan Blaney-5104
3572Cole Whitt-5357
3652Cody Ware-6842
371Jamie McMurray-7733
3847AJ Allmendinger-7733

 

Points/Playoff Standings

RankDriverPointsWins
1Kevin Harvick*6245
2Kyle Busch6964
3Martin Truex Jr.5463
4Clint Bowyer*5442
5Joey Logano*5841
6Austin Dillon3131
7Brad Keselowski*5540
8Kurt Busch*5240
9Denny Hamlin5050
10Kyle Larson4720
11Aric Almirola*4710
12Ryan Blaney*4660
13Jimmie Johnson4190
14Chase Elliott4110
15Erik Jones3760
16Alex Bowman3630
Playoff Cut Line
17Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*3460
18Paul Menard*3380
19Daniel Suarez2900
20William Byron2890

* Ford Fusion Drivers