By: Billy Tewes
The Toyota SaveMart 350 was conquered by a second consecutive Michael Waltrip Racing driver as Martin Truex Jr won his second career Sprint Cup race in dominating fashion. Truex made it look effortless as he weaved in and out of the eleven turns of Infineon Raceway.
Truex Jr snapped a 218 win-less streak at Sonoma and this should come as no surprise to anyone as he has been successful on road courses before. In the Busch Series (now Nationwide), Truex Jr. won his first career road course race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez course in Mexico City.
This race is extremely important to Truex Jr’s chase chances. He is now sitting in 10th, with an eight point lead over 11th place Paul Menard and this win could play into a potential wild card scenario if Truex is not able to stay in the top 10.
It appeared as if only three or four drivers had a serious handle on their cars all day. Kurt Busch looked poised to win and dominated early until he set himself up to be off pit sequence to try to make it on only two stops. Busch fumbled the race away by speeding on pit road not once, but twice! In a miraculous comeback, Busch would wind up finishing 4th. I’m still convinced that Kurt Busch will be in victory lane this year with the completely underrated Furniture Row race team.
Jeff Gordon’s team made the right adjustments throughout the race and got his car to sail through the turns like a hot knife through butter. But Truex Jr’s car was so good down the stretch that once he pulled away from Juan Pablo Montoya, he was able to take care of his tires and save enough fuel to make it to the end. This was not the case for Montoya as he ran out of fuel, coasting to a disappointing 34th place finish.
Also disappointing were the runs of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. The only driver that possibly saw some light at the end of the tunnel was Matt Kenseth in the 20. Kenseth stayed upfront for majority of the race except for when most of the field was off pit sequence with the few leaders that stayed out for strategy purposes. Kenseth’s day took a dive when crew chief Jason Ratcliffe decided to keep him out and try to stretch him on fuel. This gave Kenseth track position but put him at an extreme disadvantage as he had to go over 40 laps on a run. Kenseth was able to save enough fuel to finish but slipped from 3rd to 19th where he would finish. It was a rough day for Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin as well as both were involved in accidents and finished
The three drivers I had picked to look out for at Sonoma were Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers. All three were at one point in the top five but the only one who looked like he could have mounted a serious challenge was Ambrose who finished 7th. I will tip my hat to Vickers though who started 40th due to racing the Nationwide race at Road America and missing qualifying. Vickers raced his way to a 13th place finish.
Nascar will go east to the Kentucky Speedway for some Saturday night action! Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski have won the only two races here and Keselowski could definitely use a win to turnaround his season. It will be interesting to see how important qualifying will be as the two races at Kentucky have been won from the pole and 8th place. Will there be a repeat winner, or will we see a first time winner at Kentucky this weekend? Tune in Saturday night as Kentucky has yet to disappoint!