More than a month after snapping his one-year winless streak at the Monster Mile, Martin Truex Jr. doubled down on a sunny afternoon in Northern California and capped off a dominant run with a victory in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 11.
The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion from Mayetta, New Jersey, led four times for a race-high 51 of 110-scheduled laps, including the final 13 after overtaking Chase Elliott while on four fresh tires for the lead compared to Elliott’s worn tires during a 15-lap dash to the finish. Once he acquired the lead, Truex then fended off a late charge from ex-teammate Kyle Busch to claim his second checkered flag of the 2023 Cup season and fourth overall at Sonoma.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Denny Hamlin notched his second Cup Series pole of the 2023 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 92.178 mph in 77.719 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Tyler Reddick, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 92.068 mph in 77.812 seconds.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Hamlin jumped ahead with an early advantage entering the first two turns. As the field navigated its way through Turns 3 and 4 before proceeding through the Chute corner, Hamlin maintained the lead ahead of teammate Christopher Bell while Reddick slipped to third. In addition, teammate/rookie Ty Gibbs challenged teammate Martin Truex Jr. for fourth while Michael McDowell and AJ Allmendinger were dueling for sixth. With the field navigating its way through the 12-turn circuit, Hamlin proceeded to lead the first lap ahead of Toyota teammates Bell, Reddick, Truex and Ty Gibbs.
During the second lap, Hamlin was leading by eight-tenths of a second over teammate Bell while Toyota teammates Reddick, Truex and Ty Gibbs remained in the top five. Behind, Allmendinger was in sixth followed by McDowell, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch while Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Corey LaJoie, Ross Chastain and Ryan Preece occupied the top 20.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Hamlin’s No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota TRD Camry continued to lead by eight-tenths of a second over teammate Bell’s No. 20 Rheem Toyota TRD Camry while Reddick’s No. 45 Unleashed the Beast Toyota TRD Camry trailed in third place by more than a second. Truex and Ty Gibbs remained in the top five while Allmendinger, McDowell, Buescher, Elliott and Kyle Busch retained their spots in the top 10. Meanwhile, William Byron trailed in 21st place ahead of Chase Briscoe, Justin Haley, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones and Brad Keselowski while Daniel Suarez, who over-revved his engine at the start of the race and lost a bevy of spots from starting 10th, was mired in 28th. In addition, Ryan Blaney was mired back in 32nd in front of teammate Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton, Andy Lally and Grant Enfinger.
At the Lap 10 mark, Hamlin, who was leading by more than a second two laps earlier, had his lead shrink to four-tenths of a second over teammate Bell, who was slowly catching teammate Hamlin for the lead while teammate Truex moved his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota TRD Camry into third. Reddick and Ty Gibbs continued to trail in the top five followed by Allmendinger, McDowell, Buescher, Elliott and Kyle Busch. Behind, Larson was in 12th after starting 16th, Logano was mired in 15th ahead of Aric Almirola and Ross Chastain, Byron worked his way up to 20th, Bubba Wallace slipped back to 21st and Harvick was mired in 23rd behind teammate Chase Briscoe.
Two laps later, Truex overtook teammate Bell for the runner-up spot in Turn 7 as Hamlin retained the lead by nearly two seconds. Soon after, Allmendinger overtook Ty Gibbs for fifth while Reddick retained fourth. By the time the event reached its Lap 15 mark, the top-eight nine competitors were separated by more than nine seconds as McDowell, Buescher and Elliott tried to close in on the top-six competitors led by race leader Hamlin.
A lap later, Keselowski pitted his No. 6 King’s Hawaiian Ford Mustang under green. Blaney would then pit his No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang under green during the proceeding lap while Hamlin continued to lead by more than three seconds over teammate Truex and more than four over teammate Bell. Blaney, however, would be penalized for speeding while exiting pit road.
By Lap 20, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to more than three seconds over teammate Truex as Bell remained in third. Behind, Allmendinger overtook Reddick for fourth place in Turn 11 as McDowell followed suit. With Reddick back in sixth, Ty Gibbs trailed in seventh in his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota TRD Camry followed by Buescher, Elliott and Larson. Meanwhile, Zane Smith, Suarez, and Harrison Burton, among others, made pit stops under green.
A lap later, Kyle Busch pitted his No. 8 McLaren Custom Grills Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 from 11th place. A host of names that included Larson, Elliott, Logano, Austin Dillon, Chastain, Byron, Harvick, Briscoe and Cindric would pit during the following lap as Hamlin remained on the racetrack with the lead.
At the conclusion of the first stage on Lap 25, Hamlin captured his third stage victory of the 2023 season. Teammate Truex followed suit by more than two seconds in the runner-up spot while Bell, Allmendinger, McDowell, Reddick, Buescher, Ty Gibbs, Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were scored in the top 10. By then, a trio of Ford competitors that included Harrison Burton, Blaney and Cindric were mired towards the rear of the field as Almirola pitted under green. Ty Dillon, Erik Jones, Haley and a host of other names also pitted under green with Almirola.
A lap later and as the event proceeded under green to start the second stage, Hamlin steered his No. 11 Toyota to pit road to pit under green followed by teammate Truex, McDowell, Allmendinger, Bell, Reddick, Buescher, Ty Gibbs, Bowman, Corey LaJoie and others. By the time the leaders completed their pit stops, Hamlin retained the lead by more than two seconds over teammate Truex while Elliott and Larson, both of whom pitted earlier than Hamlin, cycled their way into third and fourth. Bell, meanwhile, slipped back to fifth while Kyle Busch, Allmendinger, McDowell, Reddick and Buescher were running in the top 10.
Thirty laps into the event, Hamlin retained the lead by eight-tenths of a second over teammate Truex while Elliott trailed in third place in his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 by more than six seconds. Bell was in fourth as he also trailed by more than six seconds while Larson settled in fifth. Meanwhile, Reddick and Ty Gibbs were strapped in eighth and 11th, respectively, while Byron navigated his way up to 15th.
Then on Lap 32, Truex drew himself alongside teammate Hamlin in Turn 12 in a bid for the lead. After dueling for the lead through the first two turns, Truex made the pass stick through Turns 3 and 4 as he emerged as the second different leader of the afternoon.
At the Lap 40 mark, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Truex was leading by a full second over teammate Hamlin while teammate Bell trailed by less than eight seconds in third place. Hendrick Motorsports’ Elliott and Larson trailed in the top five while Allmendinger, McDowell, Buescher, Reddick and Ty Gibbs were in the top 10 ahead of Kyle Busch, Bowman, Logano, Austin Dillon, Byron, Chastain, Stenhouse, Harvick, Almirola and Ryan Preece.
Nearly five laps later, a second wave of green flag pit stops slowly commenced as Kyle Busch pitted along with names that included Suarez, Logano, Austin Dillon and Byron while Truex retained the lead by more than a second over teammate Hamlin. By then, Keselowski, Harrison Burton and Cindric pitted under green a few laps earlier as Harvick pitted under green on Lap 46.
Nearing the Lap 50 mark, Truex continued to lead by more than a second over teammate Hamlin while third-place Bell, another teammate, trailed by more than 13 seconds. Behind, McDowell was in fourth ahead of Elliott and Allmendinger while Larson was scored in seventh ahead of Buescher, Reddick and Ty Gibbs. Just then, the first caution of the event flew on Lap 49 when a right-front wheel rolled out of Zane Smith’s No. 38 pit box just as his pit service was complete, with the wheel rolling into the center of pit road. The caution period occurred just as Ross Chastain had pitted in his No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
During the event’s first caution period, nine competitors that included Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Byron, Austin Dillon, Stenhouse, Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Harvick and Suarez remained on the track while the rest led by the race leader Truex pitted. Following the pit stops, Truex exited pit road first followed by teammate Bell, McDowell, Hamlin, Buescher and Elliott.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 52, where Kyle Busch and Logano occupied the front row, Busch launched ahead with the lead on the inside lane and entering Turns 1 and 2. He then cleared the field through Turn 2 while Logano and Byron battled for second. Behind, Chastain and Stenhouse battled for fourth while Austin Dillon was in sixth ahead of Harvick, Keselowski and Truex. With the field scrambling, fanning out and jostling for positions through the Chute corner before entering a series of right- and left-hand turns through Turns 7 to 10 before entering a steep right-hand, braking turn in Turn 11, Busch remained as the leader ahead of Logano while Chastain muscled his way into third ahead of Byron and Stenhouse.
At the conclusion of the second stage on Lap 55, which marked the halfway point of the event, Kyle Busch claimed his second stage victory of the 2023 season. Logano followed suit in second while Chastain, Byron, Stenhouse, Austin Dillon, Truex, McDowell, Bell and Harvick were scored in the top 10.
With the event proceeding under green with 54 laps remaining, Kyle Busch stretched his advantage to a second-and-a-half over Logano followed by Chastain, Byron and Stenhouse while Truex, McDowell, Bell, Austin Dillon and Buescher were scored in the top 10. Behind, Harvick was in 11th ahead of Allmendinger, Keselowski, Hamlin and Elliott while Suarez, Larson, Bowman, Ty Gibbs and Preece were running in the top 20. Meanwhile, Wallace was in mired in 21st ahead of teammate Reddick, LaJoie, Almirola and Briscoe while Josh Bilicki, Erik Jones, Blaney, Haley and Todd Gilliland were strapped in the top 30. Ty Dillon, Cindric, Harrison Burton, Enfinger, Andy Lally and Zane Smith rounded out the 36-car field, with all running on the circuit.
With 50 laps remaining, Busch stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Logano while third-place Chastain also trailed by more than a second as he tried to catch Logano for the runner-up spot. Meanwhile, Truex carved his way up to fourth over Byron. McDowell would then overtake Byron for fifth during the following lap as Bell, Stenhouse, Buescher and Harvick were battling within the top 10. Soon after, Chastain overtook Logano for second entering the first two turns, but he went wide in Turn 2, which allowed Logano to reclaim the spot as Truex joined the battle. Truex would overtake Chastain during the proceeding lap before overtaking Logano for the runner-up spot with 47 laps remaining. All in the process, Kyle Busch increased his advantage to more than two seconds.
Then with 46 laps remaining, Austin Dillon ran into late trouble after receiving a bump from Ty Gibbs that sent him spinning in Turn 11 while battling for 17th. Despite stalling his car while off the racing course, he managed to continue without drawing a caution.
During the proceeding lap, Kyle Busch, who nearly got loose in Turn 10, was leading by a second over a hard-charging Truex while Logano trailed in third place by more than three seconds. Behind, McDowell carved his way up to fourth while Chastain settled in fifth. After cutting Busch’s advantage during the following three laps, Truex executed his move beneath Busch in Turn 7 as he reassumed the lead with 42 laps remaining. Truex would proceed to stretch the advantage to more than a second over Busch as McDowell started to intimidate Logano for third.
With 38 laps remaining, names that included Bell, Bowman, Ty Dillon and Harrison Burton pitted under green. Byron would pit during the following lap along with Hamlin, Larson and Cindric. Another lap later, the pit strategy games ensued as more drivers including Logano, Chastain, Stenhouse, Preece, Almirola, Briscoe and Corey LaJoie pitted.
Then with 36 laps remaining, the leader Truex pitted along with Kyle Busch and Allmendinger while McDowell inherited the lead after remaining on the track. Buescher moved up to second after he also remained on the track while Elliott, Harvick and Ty Gibbs moved up into the top five.
With 35 laps remaining, McDowell surrendered the lead to pit under green followed by Buescher as Elliott, who last pitted on Lap 51, assumed the lead. By then, Keselowski and Justin Haley also pitted. Once McDowell and Buescher exited pit road together and in close-quarters racing, McDowell managed to cycle past Erik Jones, Chastain and Byron on the track while Buescher was trapped behind Chastain and Erik Jones.
Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Truex, who last pitted on Lap 75, reassumed the lead as both Elliott and Harvick pitted under green. By then, Reddick cycled back into second as he trailed Truex by nine-tenths of a second while Suarez, Kyle Busch and Logano were in the top five. Behind, Bell was in sixth ahead of McDowell, Wallace, Chastain and Buescher. During the following lap, Reddick, along with his teammate Wallace, and Suarez pitted under green as Busch, Logano, Bell and McDowell were scored in the top five.
With 25 laps remaining, Truex extended his advantage to more than four seconds over Kyle Busch while third-place McDowell trailed by more than six seconds. Logano and Buescher were mired in the top five while Bell, Chastain, Byron, Hamlin and Larson were scored in the top 10 ahead of Stenhouse, Allmendinger, Bowman, Preece, Elliott and Harvick.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Truex continued to lead by more than four seconds over Kyle Busch as McDowell retained third place despite trailing by nearly seven seconds. Meanwhile, Buescher overtook Logano for fourth place two laps earlier while Chastain was up in sixth ahead of Bell, Larson, Byron and Hamlin.
A lap later, the caution flew when Hamlin, who was running in 10th, scrubbed the inside wall entering the frontstretch. The incident caused him to get loose and spin in the middle of the frontstretch as he smacked the frontstretch’s wall and damaged his pole-winning Toyota TRD Camry along with his toe link and right-rear suspension. The damage to Hamlin’s car was enough to terminate his strong run in the garage.
During the caution period, nearly the entire lead lap field led by Truex pitted while Elliott, Reddick and Blaney remained on the track as Elliott cycled into the lead. Following the pit stops, Truex exited first followed by Kyle Busch, Buescher, Logano, Chastain and Larson. In the midst of the pit stops, McDowell exited pit road 11th after enduring a slow pit service from his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports pit crew.
With the race restarting under green with 15 laps remaining, Elliott took off with the lead entering the first two turns. With Elliott maintaining the lead through Turns 3 and 4 before entering the Chute corner, Truex quickly charged his way into second as Kyle Busch challenged Reddick for third. Logano would then challenge Reddick for fourth after overtaking teammate Blaney through Turns 7 and 8. As the field jostled for late positions throughout the 12-turn circuit, Elliott maintained the lead by four-tenths of a second over Truex while Kyle Busch trailed in third place by more than a second.
Then during the following lap, Truex rocketed past Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the lead entering Turn 7. With Truex back out in front, Kyle Busch then closed up on Elliott’s rear bumper through Turns 8 to 10. Busch then moved up to second after overtaking Elliott, who was losing ground on worn tires, through Turn 11 as he set his sights on Truex for the lead. Way behind the leaders, Reddick fell off the pace after cutting a left-front tire after through Turn 11, but he proceeded to cut the Turn 11 corner and limp his No. 45 Toyota TRD Camry to pit road without drawing a caution, though NASCAR assessed Reddick a pass-through penalty for cutting the course. The race remained under green flag conditions during the following lap despite Almirola spinning but continuing in Turn 7.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Truex was leading by nine-tenths of a second over Kyle Busch while third-place Elliott trailed by more than three seconds. By then, Erik Jones, who spun in Turn 3A and briefly stalled his No. 43 Allegiant Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 between Turns 3 and 4, proceeded without drawing a caution.
Truex would continue to lead by more than a second-and-a-half over Busch with five laps remaining and as Logano, Buescher and Elliott occupied the top five. By then, Blaney, who was running in the top 10 two laps earlier, had plummeted to 31st after getting hit by McDowell and spinning in Turn 7, as his roller-coaster day went from bad to worse after he spun again in Turn 2 when he got hit by Chase Briscoe.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Truex remained as the leader by more than three seconds over Kyle Busch. After smoothly navigating his way through the 12-turn circuit for a final time and with Busch unable to close the gap, Truex was able to the frontstretch victorious as he streaked across the finish line in first place and with his second checkered flag of the 2023 season.
With the victory, Truex, who endured a dismal run at Sonoma along with his Toyota teammates a year ago, became the fourth Cup Series competitor to win multiple races this season as he notched his 33rd career victory in NASCAR’s premier series. He also notched his first Cup victory since winning at Dover Motor Speedway this past April and his fourth at Sonoma, with his last at the circuit occurring in 2019. In addition, Truex recorded his 14th victory driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and the 175th Cup career win for the Toyota nameplate.
Ironically, this marked the fifth 1-2 finish in a Cup Series race overall for Truex and Kyle Busch where Truex ended up victorious.
“[It took] A lot of hard work by everybody,” Truex said on FOX. “Everybody at Toyota, [Toyota Racing Development], everybody at [Joe Gibbs Racing] in the off-season to redesign. We got to do some work with NASCAR to pre-design some stuff. Everybody did and they did a good job there. Just hats off to my team. To be so bad here last year and to come back and do that with the same car, basically, is really unbelievable. Just proud of [my team]. We’re having a great year. I feel really good about our team. We couldn’t do it without all our partners, all of our fans. Man, it just feels so incredible to have a day like that and a run like that, and a team like I have. They’re doing everything right right now and it’s a lot of fun to drive these cars.”
Kyle Busch, winner of last weekend’s Cup Series event at World Wide Technology Raceway, settled in second place for the second time this season and his fourth top-two result at Sonoma while Logano came home in third place for his fifth top-five result of the season.
“Yeah, not too bad,” Busch said. “[I] Wished we had a little bit more. I tried there really hard at the end to, at least, try to keep Martin honest and felt like I could beat him a little bit on a lap and then, I would mess up and he’d beat me by a little bit more on the next lap. We were just trading a little bit there, but then, he was able to pull away there late. Great job by all the guys on this McLaren Grills Camaro. Proud of the effort. We gave it everything that we had. We made a lot of changes. We got a lucky break there with the yellow [flag on Lap 49], with only three laps on tires, so we were able to cycle to the front. Once we got up there, we could maintain pace with some of the good cars and have a good top-three speed race car and just flip-flop the race a little bit. Good fortunes for us. Nice to come out of here with a [runner-up result] after a win last week.”
“Overall, the team did an amazing job,” Logano added. “Great execution. We got the car a lot better last night and to where I could, at least, hang in the top five. I wasn’t good enough to win at all means, but to get the AutoTrader Mustang up towards the front, get some momentum, we got lucky a few times today. We got pretty lucky today to get through it and get some points and get some momentum back going.”
Meanwhile, Buescher, who finished second to Daniel Suarez at Sonoma a year ago, posted another strong result in Northern California by finishing fourth while Elliott capitalized in his return to racing following his one-week suspension along with his late strategic call to remain on the track on old tires to bid for a win by finishing fifth. Elliott, however, is currently situated in 31st place in the driver’s standings and trails the top-16 cutline to make the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs by 148 points.
“[It was] Nice to get a top five,” Elliott said. “[I] Just felt like our only play was to stay out. I was really hoping that more people would [stay out] with us, where you had three or four rows and probably, still wouldn’t have been enough, but I do think it would’ve been nicer to have a couple more rows of a buffer before the [competitors on] tires got to us. Good fight. Certainly have one of our better runs there the last couple, so always good to finish strong. To kind of fight through there and get a top-five is a good thing. Looking forward to trying to build on that and hopefully, contend for a win here before long. Definitely closer today.”
AJ Allmendinger settled in sixth while McDowell, Larson, Bell and Chastain finished in the top 10.
Notably, Kevin Harvick finished 11th in his 23rd and final run at Sonoma, William Byron settled in 14th, rookie Ty Gibbs posted a 16th-place result in his first run at Sonoma, Suarez ended up 22nd and Blaney fell back to 31st following his two late-race spins. In addition, Grant Enfinger, who filled in for rookie Noah Gragson as Gragson continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms, finished 26th in his Cup Series debut while Andy Lally ended up 35th.
There were 10 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured two cautions for six laps. In total, 31 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.
With 10 Cup regular-season events remaining on the schedule, Martin Truex Jr. leads the regular-season standings by 13 points over William Byron, 24 over both Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain, 25 over Kevin Harvick and 29 over Kyle Busch.
William Byron, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are currently guaranteed spots for the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the regular-season stretch. Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and Alex Bowman occupy the remaining vacant spots in the Playoffs based on points, with Bowman occupying the 16th and final vacant spot by three points over Daniel Suarez, 11 over rookie Ty Gibbs, 14 over Michael McDowell, 33 over AJ Allmendinger, 39 over Austin Cindric and 40 over Corey LaJoie.
1. Martin Truex Jr., 51 laps led
2. Kyle Busch, 17 laps led, Stage 2 winner
3. Joey Logano
4. Chris Buescher
5. Chase Elliott, seven laps led
6. AJ Allmendinger
7. Michael McDowell, one lap led
8. Kyle Larson
9. Christopher Bell
10. Ross Chastain, one lap led
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 LaJoie
21. Justin Haley
22. Daniel Suarez
23. Ty Dillon
24. Todd Gilliland
25. Austin Cindric
26. Grant Enfinger
27. Harrison Burton
28. Aric Almirola
29. Chase Briscoe
30. Josh Bilicki
31. Ryan Blaney
32. Erik Jones, one lap down
33. Tyler Reddick, one lap down
34. Zane Smith, one lap down
35. Andy Lally, one lap down
36. Denny Hamlin – OUT, Accident, 33 laps led, Stage 1 winner
The NASCAR Cup Series teams and competitors enter a one-week break period before returning to action at Nashville Superspeedway on June 25. The event’s air coverage is scheduled to occur at 7 p.m. ET on NBC, which will launch NBC’s and USA Network’s coverage for the remainder of this year’s Cup season.