Martin Truex, Jr held of a tearing charge from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch to take his third win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Truex Jr's road to dominating the final 50 lap stage began when the non-takers from the previous stage pitted during the stage break. That elevated Truex to the lead ahead of Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson.

The driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry cleanly jumped Elliott on the restart as Blaney and Busch followed in third and fourth. Busch bumped Blaney out of the way to take second, but his No. 18 M&Ms Hazelnut Spread Toyota Camry suffered substantial nose damage as a result. That didn't slow his pace as he ran down Elliott and took over second on Lap 51.

Truex meanwhile pulled away to a commanding 2.8-second advantage over the next ten laps. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr triggered the final round of pitstops on Lap 61 and brought Stage 1 winner William Byron with him.

A potential top-three finish for Elliott came to a halt on Lap 61 as well when he pitted with an apparent mechanical issue and retired from the race.

Truex surrendered the lead to his teammate on Lap 64 to make his final stop and Busch completed the pit cycle three laps later. That saw him come out of the pits eight seconds in arrears but with three laps fresher tyres to his advantage. Ryan Blaney led the rest of the pack in third ahead of Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

Busch cut the lead down to three seconds in 20 laps while Matt DiBenedetto put on a show of his own behind the leaders. The Grass Valley, California native clicked off clean passes with ease over the next 10 laps and eventually wrestled fifth place from Kevin Harvick inside 10 to go.

Truex's lead then see-sawed over the final ten laps as Busch couldn't close the gap enough to mount a charge for force Truex into a mistake. Busch had an opportunity when the pair encountered the lapped cars of Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon with six laps remaining. It proved to be all for naught as Truex passed the pair without losing a significant amount of time on his way to taking the checkered flag 1.861 seconds ahead of Busch.

Truex admitted in victory lane that Busch's fresher tyres forced him to drive defensively in the final stint.

"It was definitely battle going on as far as the race there at the end for us on tires," he said. "It felt terrible the last 20 laps. The last ten it just felt like it was on ice - just no grip anywhere. I'm really proud of all these guys and everyone on this team and everyone back at JGR."

The win is the 10th for Joe Gibbs Racing this season and the fourth in the last eight races for Truex. Busch's second place finish is his first runner-up since Daytona in February and also netted him his 15th top ten finish of the season.

Blaney scored his first top five since Bristol in April by finishing third and Matt DiBenedetto clawed his way up to fourth to claim his first career top-five finish.

Denny Hamlin was the third Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the top-five in fifth ahead of Kevin Harvick in sixth and Ryan Newman in seventh.

Erik Jones rebounded to finish eighth after a shredded tyre dropped him to 32nd on the grid while Aric Almirola ended up ninth and pole-sitter Kyle Larson ended up tenth.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...