As the NASCAR Cup. Series comes to its first – and its only – off-week of the season, Martin Truex, Jr. and all of Joe Gibbs Racing for that matter, have come on strong, as was clear in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.
Truex, who finally snapped a winless streak of 50-plus races earlier this season at Dover, was the dominant driver in Sunday’s 110-lap contest, leading a race-high 51 laps in his Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD.
The Mayetta, New Jersey native was able to reclaim the lead for the final time in the 350-kilometer event with 14 laps remaining, just a couple laps after a restart where Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, and Ryan Blaney stayed out on tires with more than 10 laps on them.
While the Joe Gibbs Racing driver made pretty quick work of both Blaney and Reddick, it took him a couple of laps around the 1.99-mile road course to retake the lead, finally making the pass on the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion with a lunge into Turn 7.
Truex would then have the opportunity to pull away from the pack, as the drivers behind were forced to make their way around Elliott, who faded to the back of the top five by the conclusion of the event.
The only challenge for the 42-year-old driver was Kyle Busch, the winner last time out at World Wide Technology Raceway, who managed to keep his No. 8 McLaren Custom Grills Chevrolet Camaro within striking distance for a couple of laps.
However, Busch would eventually begin to fade, as the No. 19 was one of the strongest drivers in the long run, ultimately winning Sunday’s 16th event of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season by nearly three seconds.
Busch would come home in the runner-up position, while Joey Logano was able to take advantage of a mid-race caution to maintain track position and come home in third. Chris Buescher, driving for RFK Racing, scored his third top-five of the year in fourth.
Chase Elliott rounded out the top five, surviving the final 15 laps of the event on tires older than the drivers that surrounded him. Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney, who played the same strategy as Elliott, ran into issues and finished 31st and 33rd.
AJ Allmendinger came home in sixth place, after running inside the top eight for the majority of the afternoon, just his second top-10 result of 2023 for Kaulig Racing. Michael McDowell, another strong driver on the road courses, finished seventh.
McDowell was posted for a finish inside the top five – and potentially a shot at his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory – when a problem on the final pit stop of the race tossed the Front Row Motorsports driver outside the top-10 in the running order.
Kyle Larson came home in eighth, after leading Saturday’s practice session, while Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain occupied the last spots inside the top-10.
Leaving Sonoma, the NASCAR Cup Series gets a much-needed off-weekend after running the first 16 races of the season – as well as a pair of exhibition events – without a break to start the 2023 campaign.
With his victory at Sonoma, Truex jumps four spots in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings to have the lead in the regular-season point standings, leading by 13 points over William Byron.
The standings remained packed from third to seventh, with Ryan Blaney occupying the last spot inside the top three, 24 points behind Truex. Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Christopher Bell round out the top seven.
Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Kyle Larson sit eighth, ninth, and tenth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings with 10 races remaining in the regular season.