Martin Truex Jr. outlasted a charging Kyle Busch to win the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway for the second straight year.
Truex and Busch, teammates on Joe Gibbs Racing, finished well ahead of the rest of the field, with nobody else being within 30 seconds of them on the California road course.
Truex, Busch Dominate Race
Truex still managed to win the race comfortably, finishing nearly two seconds ahead of Busch at the finish line. But the result wasn’t certain until the final laps, as Busch managed to close what had been an eight-second gap over the course of the final 24 laps thanks to his fresher tires.
In the end, Busch didn’t have enough to overtake Truex, who was able to better handle the hills and corners that mark the Sonoma course.
“It was definitely a battle going on, as far as the race there at the end for us on tires,” Truex told reporters afterwards. “It felt terrible the last 20 laps. The last 10 it just felt like it was on ice – just no grip anywhere.”
The win was the fourth of the season for Truex, tying him with Busch for the most on the NASCAR Cup Series this year. The two teammates have been proud of their dominant performances for Joe Gibbs Racing, though that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a rivalry between them when they are out on the track.
“We race as hard as we can possibly race on the race track, and we respect each other off it,” Truex said after the race. “That works out pretty good.”
For Busch, the second place finish marked the fourth time in the last five years he has finished in the top five at Sonoma.
“It [stinks] to finish second to a teammate, but it is good for the company,” Busch told reporters. “Overall, Martin is really good here. I’m just pumped that I actually ran good.”
Carousel’s Return Doesn’t Cause Trouble
Truex was dominant throughout the race, leading 59 of the 90 laps on Sunday. The only other driver to lead more than 10 was William Byron, who held first place for 21 laps and won the first stage before falling to 19th place in the final standings.
Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto and Danny Hamlin rounded out the top five positions. Hamlin also won the second stage of the race.
The Sonoma course offered a new challenge this year, as “The Carousel” – a connector between Turns 4 and 7 – was used for the first time by NASCAR since 1997. The revised layout didn’t seem to cause any problems for drivers, and it’s likely that it will remain a part of the course in future years.
The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates are considered the heavy favorites to take down the NASCAR title in 2019. According to bookmaker Unibet, Busch is a 12/5 pick to win the NASCAR championship, followed by Truex (4/1). Other contenders include Kevin Harvick (6/1), Joey Logano (15/2), and Brad Keselowski (7/1).