Martin Truex Jr. Dominates the Toyota/Save Mart 350 for fourth NASCAR Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway
Martin Truex, Jr. chose the correct road course pit stop strategy, and it proved to make all the difference as he and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team dominated the 34th annual NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
The Mayetta, N.J., native led four times for 51 laps, including the final 14, to take the checkered flag 2.979 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
The balance of the top 10 finishers were Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain.
The Toyota/Save Mart 350 victory was Truex’s second of the season and fourth career win at Sonoma Raceway (2013, 2018, 2019 and 2023), just one behind Jeff Gordon for all-time wins at the speedway. It was his 33rd win in 637 NASCAR Cup Series starts.
“I felt like our Bass Pro Shops Camry TRD was really close yesterday in practice, if we could make a few adjustments, I thought we would be good,” said Truex. “They definitely made the right adjustments.
“This place is all about rear traction, rear drive and being able to manage that and keep turning and keep momentum. We were able to do that today. The car was really, really good. Just a total team effort. Everybody works really, really hard.
“We were awful here last year, and at road course in general, so to come back here – this has kind of been a playground for us before, and to be able to get back here with this car and do it again feels really, really special. It's really gratifying. We’ve worked hard for this one.”
Hamlin, who won the pole with a qualifying lap of 77.719 seconds at 92.178 mph, led the field to green and established the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at the front of the field with each successive lap. He was 0.73-of-a-second ahead of JGR teammate Bell after the second lap and built a two-second lead on Bell after 10 laps, with Truex, Tyler Reddick fourth and Ty Gibbs rounding out the top 5.
The leaders stayed out very late into the second stage and only came to pit road on Lap 51 after the day’s first caution was waved due a loose tire from Zane Smith’s car on pit road. The Top 10 running order when the caution waved was Truex, Hamlin, Bell, McDowell, Elliott, Allmendinger, Buescher, Larson, Reddick and Gibbs.
Truex won the race off pit road, followed by Bell and McDowell, but it was Kyle Busch, who came to pit road prior to the yellow, who led the flag back to green on Lap 54. Truex lined up 10th with Logano, Byron, Chastain, Austin Dillon, Stenhouse, Keselowski, Harvick and Suarez lined up ahead of him, filling the space in between him and Busch.
Busch won Stage 2 after Lap 55 with the balance of the Top 10 consisting of Logano, Chastain, Byron, Stenhouse, Dillon, Truex, McDowell, Harvick and Bell.
Busch maintained the lead over the next 13 circuits as Truex moved to fourth by Lap 61, third the next lap and second on Lap 64. Truex moved past Busch in Turn 7 on Lap 69 and kept the top spot until coming to pit lane on Lap 75 along with Busch and Allmendinger.
Truex reclaimed the top spot five laps later and held it until Hamlin hit the wall in Turn 12 on Lap 92, ping-ponged between the two frontstretch barriers and broke the right rear toe link on his Toyota.
Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney stayed out on older tires during the ensuing caution, but Truex made short work of those drivers, retaking the lead off Turn 4 on Lap 97, with Busch following him into the second spot.
Busch chased Truex over the final 14 laps—to no avail.
“I wish we had a little bit more,” said Busch, who won last Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway. “I tried really hard at the end to at least try to keep Martin honest. Felt like I could beat him a little bit on a lap, then I would mess up. He would beat me by a little bit more on the next lap. We were just kind of trading a little bit there. He was able to pull away there late.
"There were 10 lead changes among six drivers (Hamlin, Truex, Busch, McDowell, Elliot and Chastain) and two cautions for six laps.
The unofficial 2023 NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 16 races is Martin Truex Jr. (525, William Byron (-13), Ryan Blaney (-24), Ross Chastain (-24), Kevin Harvick (-25), Kyle Busch (-29), Christopher Bell (-32), Denny Hamlin (-63), Joey Logano (-81) and Kyle Larson (-85).
Bakersfield, Calif., native Kevin Harvick, competing in his final NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, finished 11th after qualifying 21st. Harvick won the 2017 Sonoma race and also wracked up two second-place finishes, two third-place finishes and last year’s fourth-place finish in 22 starts.
Toyota/Save Mart 350 pole winner Denny Hamlin finished 36th after clipping the Turn 12 wall and damaging the suspension of his No. 11 JGR Toyota.
Last year’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 winner, Daniel Suarez, missed a shift in the opening laps, over-revving the engine of his No. 99 23XI Chevrolet and quickly fell off the pace. He fought back to finish 22nd after qualifying ninth.
Go to https://www.sonomaraceway.com/ for information on all upcoming events at Sonoma Raceway.