Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Martin Truex Jr. scores fourth Sonoma win

Denny Hamlin started on the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, but a late wreck led to him being the lone retirement. Still, Joe Gibbs Racing had reason to celebrate as his team-mate Martin Truex Jr. completed a dominant day by leading the final fifteen laps following the caution for Hamlin’s crash to score his second win of 2023.

Truex led 53 of 110 laps and held off former JGR driver and last week’s winner Kyle Busch for his fourth win at Sonoma; previous victories came in 2013, 2018, and 2019. Much of Truex’s strong day could be attributed to Sonoma being a technical track without much room for aggression, clean air, and the road course-only lack of cautions for stage breaks.

“It’s tough to pass here, always has been,” said Truex. “There’s only two really good passing zones. Even those are difficult sometimes to get it set up right with a guy, even if he has a little bit older tires. You try to pressure a guy, make him slip somewhere and find an opening. It’s definitely hard to pass.

“Clean air is obviously a big deal. I don’t think it was as bad as last year by any means with the package we have now, with the short track package. I think it was a little bit better than last year, for sure. I could run close to guys. You just lose a little bit of grip. At a track where you’re just sliding all the time, you don’t have much grip to begin with, it makes it tough. But I think for us being the leader, being able to drive away, our car was that good. I could manage tyres easier, not have to run as hard to lead. It always kind of makes the lead look bigger and easier than it is.”

Hamlin led the first thirty-two laps and won Stage #1, but spun across the start/finish line while following William Byron, explaining he “I went to turn left to try to peak under him, and the wall was there.” The crash relegated him to a dubious last after winning the pole at Sonoma for the first time in his career; it was also his second road course pole after Watkins Glen in 2018.

One spot ahead of Hamlin, the lone road course specialist in the field Andy Lally finished thirty-fifth in his first start of the year for Rick Ware Racing.

Aric Almirola, who surprised by winning the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, struggled to a twenty-eighth in a difficult day for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick was the team’s best finisher in eleventh.

With Noah Gragson out due to a concussion, Grant Enfinger made his Cup début in the #42 Legacy Motor Club machine and placed twenty-sixth.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 8 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 110 Running
2 12 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 110 Running
3 17 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 110 Running
4 7 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 110 Running
5 10 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 110 Running
6 5 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 110 Running
7 3 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 110 Running
8 16 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 110 Running
9 4 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 110 Running
10 15 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 110 Running
11 21 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 110 Running
12 13 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 110 Running
13 22 41 Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 110 Running
14 26 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 110 Running
15 14 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 110 Running
16 25 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 110 Running
17 18 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 110 Running
18 6 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 110 Running
19 11 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 110 Running
20 19 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 110 Running
21 23 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 110 Running
22 9 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 110 Running
23 27 77 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 110 Running
24 32 51 Todd Gilliland Rick Ware Racing Ford 110 Running
25 34 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 110 Running
26 35 42 Grant Enfinger* Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 110 Running
27 36 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 110 Running
28 20 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 110 Running
29 24 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 110 Running
30 29 78 Josh Bilicki* Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet 110 Running
31 31 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 110 Running
32 28 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 109 Running
33 2 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 109 Running
34 30 38 Zane Smith* Front Row Motorsports Ford 109 Running
35 33 15 Andy Lally Rick Ware Racing Ford 109 Running
36 1 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 92 Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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