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

Car Driver Stage Points
47 Allmendinger 10
2 Keselowski* 9
48 Johnson 8
9 Elliott 7
42 Larson 6
31 Newman 5
10 Almirola* 4
19 Suarez 3
37 Buescher 2
95 Kahne 1

* 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

Car Driver Stage Points
11 Hamlin 10
9 Elliott 9
48 Johnson 8
2 Keselowski* 7
12 Blaney* 6
10 Almirola* 5
88 Bowman 4
34 McDowell* 3
37 Buescher 2
31 Newman 1

* 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

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 78 Martin Truex Jr. 110
2 4 Kevin Harvick 10.513 110
3 14 Clint Bowyer 22.079 110
4 9 Chase Elliott 24.41 110
5 18 Kyle Busch 26.737 110
6 41 Kurt Busch 34.294 110
7 20 Erik Jones 36.66 110
8 10 Aric Almirola 41.427 110
9 88 Alex Bowman 46.498 110
10 11 Denny Hamlin 48.053 110
11 48 Jimmie Johnson 48.343 110
12 37 Chris Buescher 53.262 110
13 2 Brad Keselowski 55.713 110
14 42 Kyle Larson 57.722 110
15 19 Daniel Suarez 59.287 110
16 3 Austin Dillon 66.875 110
17 32 Matt DiBenedetto 73.73 110
18 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 75.925 110
19 22 Joey Logano 78.441 110
20 95 Kasey Kahne 79.322 110
21 34 Michael McDowell 86.688 110
22 38 David Ragan -1 109
23 96 Parker Kligerman -1 109
24 31 Ryan Newman -1 109
25 24 William Byron -1 109
26 21 Paul Menard -1 109
27 6 Trevor Bayne -1 109
28 15 Justin Marks -1 109
29 43 Bubba Wallace -1 109
30 23 Gray Gaulding -1 109
31 51 Chris Cook -1 109
32 0 Tomy Drissi -2 108
33 13 Ty Dillon -4 106
34 12 Ryan Blaney -5 104
35 72 Cole Whitt -53 57
36 52 Cody Ware -68 42
37 1 Jamie McMurray -77 33
38 47 AJ Allmendinger -77 33

 

Points/Playoff Standings

Rank Driver Points Wins
1 Kevin Harvick* 624 5
2 Kyle Busch 696 4
3 Martin Truex Jr. 546 3
4 Clint Bowyer* 544 2
5 Joey Logano* 584 1
6 Austin Dillon 313 1
7 Brad Keselowski* 554 0
8 Kurt Busch* 524 0
9 Denny Hamlin 505 0
10 Kyle Larson 472 0
11 Aric Almirola* 471 0
12 Ryan Blaney* 466 0
13 Jimmie Johnson 419 0
14 Chase Elliott 411 0
15 Erik Jones 376 0
16 Alex Bowman 363 0
Playoff Cut Line
17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 346 0
18 Paul Menard* 338 0
19 Daniel Suarez 290 0
20 William Byron 289 0

* Ford Fusion Drivers

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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association and a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines. He is also a freelance technical writer and accomplished photographer. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve at thelascopress.com with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.