Martin Truex Jr. is the driver to beat at Sonoma.
Truex got his third career win at Sonoma on Sunday as he controlled the final stage to beat teammate Kyle Busch to the checkered flag. It’s the second-straight win for Truex at the Northern California road course after he beat Kevin Harvick for the win a year ago.
There were no cautions outside of the two stage cautions on Sunday. Truex pitted under green ahead of Busch and ended up about eight seconds ahead of Busch after Busch pitted. Busch’s fresher tires helped him close the gap to just over a second as the race neared its end, but Busch never got within a second to mount a serious challenge on Truex.
“Just dug down deep and tried to be smooth and hit my marks,” Truex said.
The win is Truex’s fourth of the season and ties him with Busch as the winningest driver in the Cup Series in 2019. It also means that Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to win 15 of the first 16 races of the season.
Truex’s three wins are the most of any active driver at Sonoma too. He entered Sunday’s race alongside Busch as the only drivers with multiple wins at the road course.
Busch and Truex were the only drivers remotely racing for the win. Third-place finisher Ryan Blaney was nearly 30 seconds back of Truex when the checkered flag flew.
No ‘natural’ cautions
Sunday’s race at Sonoma was the first since 1997 with the carousel section on the track. The lengthening of the circuit from approximately 2 miles to about 2.5 miles didn’t result in any additional action. After there were three cautions in last year’s race, Sunday’s race had two cautions. And both of those came for the stage breaks. There were no crashes or incidents that caused a caution.
The lack of cautions led to a relative lack of strategy during Sunday’s race. Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn once again outsmarted everyone by eschewing stage points at the end of the first and second stages to pit under green ahead of the restarts.
Those decisions led to Truex being at the front of the field when the final stage went green. And Truex didn’t give up the lead during that stage outside of the laps between his pit stop and Busch’s.
The race was yet another example of why NASCAR needs to eschew stage breaks at road courses. The predetermined yellow flags ruin the strategy aspects at road courses, especially when there are no crashes. NASCAR really needs to consider having no cautions after stage conclusions at Sonoma, Watkins Glen, Pocono and Indianapolis in 2020 and beyond.
Matt DiBenedetto gets a top five
Sonoma has been Matt DiBenedetto’s best track. And he showed that on Sunday.
DiBenedetto, in his first season with Leavine Family Racing, finished fourth. It’s the first top-five finish of his career.
It was a legit top five too. DiBenedetto had good speed throughout the race and passed Kevin Harvick straight up for that fourth spot late in the race.
Chase Elliott’s good day goes bad
Chase Elliott was on pace for a top-five finish until his final pit stop of the day. He came to pit road with approximately 30 laps to go and never left after he had an engine issue before that final pit stop. His team popped the hood on the car and ended up taking it to the garage. Elliott finished next-to-last instead of finishing third or fourth like he probably would have with a healthy engine.
JGR gets all four in the top 10
In addition to having the top two drivers on Sunday, all four of Joe Gibbs Racing’s team drivers finished in the top 10. Denny Hamlin came back to finish fifth while Erik Jones finished eighth. It’s the first time since Dover in the fall of 2018 that JGR has had all of its cars in the top 10.
Happy retirement, Darrell Waltrip
The race was the final one for longtime NASCAR driver and television analyst Darrell Waltrip, who is retiring from broadcasting. If you’re a fan of Waltrip, Sunday was your final chance to savor a “boogity, boogity, boogity” at the start of the race. If you’re not a fan of Waltrip, it was the final time you had to mute the television or ignore his opening phrase.
Fox’s portion of the NASCAR schedule ended Sunday and NBC takes over next week. Here’s to hoping Waltrip enjoys his retirement from broadcasting and here’s also a thank you to the contributions he’s made to NASCAR. While Waltrip has become a caricature in the booth in recent years, there’s no denying the impact he’s made in NASCAR.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kyle Busch
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Matt DiBenedetto
5. Denny Hamlin
7. Ryan Newman
8. Erik Jones
9. Aric Almirola
10. Kyle Larson
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Jimmie Johnson
13. Kurt Busch
14. Alex Bowman
15. Daniel Hemric
16. Chris Buescher
17. Daniel Suarez
18. Brad Keselowski
19. William Byron
20. David Ragan
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
22. Paul Menard
23. Joey Logano
24. Austin Dillon
25. Michael McDowell
26. Bubba Wallace
27. Ty Dillon
28. Matt Tifft
29. Ryan Preece
30. Parker Kligerman
31. Landon Cassill
32. Corey LaJoie
33. Ross Chastain
34. Justin Haley
35. Reed Sorenson
36. Cody Ware
37. Chase Elliott
38. JJ Yeley
1. Joey Logano, 643 points (clinched playoff spot with win)
2. Kyle Busch, 642 (clinched playoff spot with win)
3. Kevin Harvick, 573
4. Brad Keselowski, 569 (clinched playoff spot with win)
5. Martin Truex Jr., 543 (clinched playoff spot with win)
6. Denny Hamlin, 542 (clinched playoff spot with win)
7. Chase Elliott, 535 (clinched playoff spot with win)
8. Kurt Busch, 509
9. Ryan Blaney, 468
10. Alex Bowman, 460
11. Aric Almirola, 460
12. Clint Bowyer, 430
13. Daniel Suarez, 421
14. William Byron, 419
15. Kyle Larson, 408
16. Ryan Newman, 391
17. Jimmie Johnson, 390
18. Erik Jones, 386
19. Paul Menard, 353
20. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 348
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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