After about losing the race running wide in turn 7a on the final lap, Tony Stewart capitalized on Denny Hamlin locking up in Turn 11, made contact with him, hit the wall and scored the victory at Sonoma.
The driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet snapped an 84-race winless streak as he won the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
When asked if this win is significant because of its timing, he said “They’re all good; it doesn’t matter where you get them. But, we ran close to those guys all day. We just got stuck back in traffic. It’s pretty ironic the last one we got was in a Code 3 car and I’m proud to do it again. I’m proud of Mobil 1 and Bass Pro and everybody. It’s just an awesome job.”
It’s his 49th career win in 598 Sprint Cup Series starts, first of 2016, first since Dover in June of 2013, third at Sonoma Raceway and first since 2005.
He currently sits 32nd in points nine points back of the Chase cutoff.
Hamlin brought his wounded No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota home to a runner-up finish.
“Tony was doing a good job maintaining his tires, a good job of running consistent laps there,” Hamlin said. “Really he gave me an opportunity to get close. On the second to last lap, he wheel-hopped into (turn) seven, allowed us to get close and I just did a poor job of getting through 11. I was expecting to really drive in deep and I really thought that was going to happen and he did, but I also left the bottom open and that was a bad mistake on my part.”
It’s his seventh top-10 finish of the season and third in 11 races at Sonoma. He earned the bonus point for leading the most laps at 33. Joey Logano rounded out the podium in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
“We had a hard-fought third-place finish today, which is no easy finish here at Sonoma at any point,” Logano said.
It’s his fourth top-10 finish in eight races at Sonoma.
Carl Edwards led 24 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish in his No. 19 JGR Toyota.
“We had a really fast Stanley Toyota, this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, really good car,” Edwards said. “It was fun to race. Congrats to Tony, I know he drove his heart out there. It’s pretty neat to see him in victory lane. We just had some fun today, it was a good time.”
After losing second to Hamlin going into turn 7a with 12 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota.
“We just burned it up at the end trying to get Smoke (Tony Stewart) and I gave up a couple spots, but I had to try to go for it,” Truex said of the closing laps. “The rear tires were gone at the end. It was a good race and congrats to Tony, it’s good to see and it’s been a long time coming for him.”
Kevin Harvick led three laps on his way to a sixth-place finish in his No. 4 SHR Chevrolet. Kyle Busch led two laps on his way to a seventh-place finish in his No. 18 JGR Toyota. Ryan Newman finished eighth in his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Kasey Kahne finished ninth in his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Kurt Busch rounded out the top-10 in his No. 41 SHR Chevrolet.
Despite leading 20 laps and being a front-runner for most of the afternoon, an uncontrolled tire penalty relegated AJ Allmendinger to the tail-end of the longest line during the fourth caution of the race and he finished 14th. Paul Menard, who led three laps, finished 16th. Danica Patrick, who led three laps, finished 19th.
Thirty-five cars finished on the lead lap and 37 finished the race. Josh Wise exited the race with 14 laps remaining due to engine failure. Michael McDowell left the race with 18 laps to go for rear gear failure and Clint Bowyer exited the race on lap seven for an electrical fire in the dashboard of his car.
The race lasted two hours, 42 minutes and 13 seconds at an average speed of 80.966 mph. There were 12 lead changes among eight different drivers and four cautions for 10 laps.
Harvick leaves with a 35-point lead over Kurt Busch in the points standings.
The next race for the Sprint Cup Series is the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway this Saturday night.