Sonoma and Martin Truex Jr. just seem to go hand-in-hand these days.
Truex Jr. scored his third career win at the northern California road course in Sunday’s Toyota Save/Mart 350 and in doing so became the first back-to-back Sonoma winner since Jeff Gordon turned a three-peat in 1998-2000.
In fact had Truex Jr. not had an engine expire two years ago he may have equaled Gordon’s string of three straight.
The bigger story Sunday was not just Truex Jr. winning but the domination of Joe Gibbs Racing continuing. The 2018 season has been one of a JGR stranglehold with Truex Jr.’s Sonoma victory number 10 of the year in the first 16 races of the schedule.
There’s no signs of that ending anytime soon. It really doesn’t matter the discipline of racing whether it’s superspeedways, intermediate tracks, short tracks or road courses, the organization is the cream of the crop.
Sunday’s race was by no means a rock ‘em, sock ‘em event recent road course races have displayed – there were no caution flags except for the pair of stage breaks – and will be remembered as a rather calm afternoon in wine country.
Truex Jr. and JGR don’t mind that at all.
- The jury is still out for me whether the return of “The Carousel” made for better racing at Sonoma. The added distance and challenge did throw a curveball at drivers and crew chiefs, most of which had zero experience dealing with the area of the track that had not been used for NASCAR’s annual Sonoma visit for two decades. But I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the previous configuration that gave the northern California circuit a road racing “short track” vibe. Next year’s race will be interesting now that everyone has a year of “The Carousel” under their belts.
- Whether the added length of the track and shorter distance of the race than years past (110 laps vs. 90) played a part or not, strategy was definitely a huge factor in Sunday’s race particularly in the open two stages. Drivers and teams used a variety of criteria to determine whether to stay out and accumulate stage and playoff points or remain on track choosing rather to focus on the race’s bigger picture. At the very least it made for a sometimes confusing yet interesting story to watch develop.
- The saga of Ross Chastain is starting to become one of those underdog stories that captures the imagination of the entire sports world. Chastain added another chapter to the incredible story by winning Saturday night’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race in St. Louis. Chastain spent the week in the spotlight for the wrong reason, becoming the first NASCAR national series driver in decades to have a win stripped away after his truck failed post race inspection last week at Iowa Speedway. Undaunted, Chastain and the Niece Motorsports team rebounded in nearly unbelievable style Saturday with another visit to Victory Lane. Chastain still has to make up six spots in the standings to get into the top 20 to make the playoffs. The way he’s running, don’t put it past him.
- Sunday’s race in Sonoma was the last for Darrell Waltrip in the FOX television booth. It ended a 19-year run for Waltrip with the network on the heels of his decades-long career behind the wheel, all adding up to being a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Love him or hate him, and there were plenty on both sides of debate, Waltrip has dedicated his life to the sport. In the days leading to his final telecast, Waltrip became not surprisingly very reflective on what he’s accomplished and what may or may not lie ahead. Whatever that may be, I know I speak on behalf of all us at the Motor Racing Network in wishing “’Ole DW” the very best.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.