Gutsy Pit Call And Long Green Flag Run Helps Martin Truex Jr. Win At Sonoma


By: Camille Jones/TheFourthTurn.com

SONOMA, Calif. – With the help of a long green flag run to close out Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Martin Truex Jr. sailed to victory with no pressure in his rear-view mirror.

Truex, the driver of the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 5-Hour Energy Toyota earned his second victory at the tricky road course and his third victory of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday. In the closing laps, Truex still held a 23-second lead over the second-place car. He was able to run a safe pace, knowing the field would need a caution to catch him.

“That was it – just hoping no caution would come out,” said Truex. “You never know how these things are going to go. Last year, I felt like we had the best car and we didn’t win and then this year I wasn’t sure we could beat the 4 (Kevin Harvick). We were real equal. He was better early in the race. I felt like we caught up to him a little, but he was going to be hard to beat either way. To get off strategy was the perfect call and then you just hope it works out for you, so sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield. Today we made the right call and it all worked out. We had a fast enough car to stay out there.”

Pit stop strategy played an important role in much of the field’s finishing positions on Sunday, but for Truex, overall speed, as well as a small trick on the radio to convince others he was pitting when he wasn’t, carried him to Victory Lane. Crew chief of the No. 78 Toyota, Cole Pearn, fessed up that he knew he needed the competition to pit so that their strategy would give them the full advantage. 

“We knew we were going to do one stop,” said Pearn. “That was kind of our plan. We just – we really needed them to pit earlier for it to work out. It was a bit of a gamble obviously, but obviously it paid off and worked out great. It’s tough. Everybody is so good in this, it sometimes takes something different to mix it up to pull one out.”

Kevin Harvick was forced to settle for second-place on Sunday, with no chance of catching the leader without a caution. The finish marks Harvick’s consecutive runner-up effort. Harvick has finish inside the top-five for three race weekends in a row.

“No, I think everybody did a good job,” Harvick said. “Martin (Truex, Jr.)  just had a little bit faster car than we did today. At the beginning of the race, we could outrun him just a little bit, and as the second stage got over, we just started struggling with the brakes on our car, and when the brakes started not working as good getting into the corner, I started carrying more speed through the center of the corner, and then it started to burn the rear tires off on exit. Just kind of a few things compounded there to add up to a few things that didn’t work out to win the race today.”

Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Clint Bowyer, claimed the third finishing position at Sonoma Raceway. Aside from having last weekend off, Bowyer entered Sonoma Raceway coming off a victory at Michigan International Speedway. Sunday’s effort marked Bowyer’s fifth top-five finish of the 2018 season.

Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch finished fourth and fifth respectively on Sunday. Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-10.

There was just one caution unrelated to the ending of a Stage. On lap 35, the caution came out when AJ Allmendinger missed a shift and ultimately ended his day with a blown engine.

“I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years,” Allmendinger said following a 38th-place finish. “It was just me. I trying to be so patient and so smooth. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here. I just can’t thank Kroger and ClickList enough, and my guys. The car was good. I don’t know if it was a race-winning car. We needed a little work on the long run, but it’s just all on me. I don’t know what else to say. I just let everybody down.”

Kyle Busch now leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings by 72 points over Kevin Harvick.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway next weekend for the TheHouse.com 400 on July 1. The race will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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