Martin Truex Jr. wins in Sonoma for the fourth time

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 11: #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 11, 2023 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr. has won four times in Sonoma. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Martin Truex earned Sonoma’s fourth victory of his career on Sunday against Kyle Busch.

Truex took the lead on lap 97 of the 110-lap race after a restart with 15 laps to go. Truex restarted fourth as the first driver on fresh tires and passed Chase Elliott for the lead shortly after the restart.

Truex led a race-high 51 laps after starting eighth. He took the lead for the first time on lap 33 after teammate Joe Gibbs Racing and pole sitter Denny Hamlin led the first 32 laps.

The win makes Truex Sonoma’s second-winningest driver behind Jeff Gordon. Truex entered Sunday’s race tied with Tony Stewart with three wins and is now alone behind Gordon’s five wins at Sonoma during his storied career.

The race was the first in Sonoma without warnings for stage skips since the format was introduced in 2017. There were only two warnings on Sunday and the first was quite specious. After the first 48 laps of the race went green, NASCAR issued a tire warning in the middle of pit road after Zane Smith made a pit stop.

Pit road in Sonoma is separated from the track by a wall and the pit road speed is 40 mph. But NASCAR deemed it unsafe for someone to pick up the tire on an empty mine road without issuing a warning.

The other race warning came when Denny Hamlin had a problem on the front stretch on lap 91 to prepare for the final restart. It’s unclear what happened to Hamlin’s car, but it had a broken rear toe link.

Joey Logano was third while Chris Buescher was fourth and Chase Elliott finished fifth in his first race after a one-race suspension for hanging Hamlin in the wall at the Coca-Cola 600.

Truex is a legitimate threat to the Championship

Truex is in search of the second Cup Series title of his career after winning his first championship in 2017. He missed the playoffs in 2022 thanks to a winless regular season despite scoring the fourth most number of points of all drivers during the regular season.

Hard to see how he isn’t among the favorites to win the 2023 title after Sunday’s race. Truex entered Sonoma fourth in the points standings and matched the consistency he had a season ago with the wins he missed.

“That’s why you go through years like we did last year,” Truex said after getting out of his car. “You keep fighting. You never give up. You always believe in each other.

“We haven’t changed anything in our squad other than the spare parts. It’s thanks to the hard work of a lot of people.”

Truex is currently co-No. 4 favorite to win the title at +800 behind Kyle Larson (+500), Busch (+600), William Byron (+700) and tied with Hamlin (+800).

Race results

1. Martin Truex Jr.

2. Kyle Busch

3.Joey Logano

4. Chris Buescher

5. Chase Elliott

6. AJ Allmendinger

7. Michael McDowell

8. Kyle Larson

9. Christopher Bell

10. Ross Chestnut

11. Kevin Harvick

12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

13. Ryan Preece

14.William Byron

15. Alex Bowman

16. Brad Keselowski

17. Bubba Wallace

18. Ty Gibbs

19. Austin Dillon

20. Corey The Joy

21. Justin Haley

22. Daniel Suarez

23. Ty Dillon

24. Todd Gilliland

25. Austin Cindric

26. Grant Finger

27. Harrison Burton

28. Aric Almirola

29. Chasing Briscoe

30. Josh Bilicki

31. Ryan Blaney

32. Erik Jones

33. Tyler Red Dick

34. Zane Smith

35. Andy Lally

36. Denny Hamlin

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