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After early accident, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates 10th-place finish at Martinsville

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. emerged from his battered No. 17 car, stood on the door and with a giant smile, raised both arms above his head in victory.

One problem.

Stenhouse didn’t win the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. That was Brad Keselowski, who was preparing to be interviewed in victory lane on the frontstretch.

Stenhouse finished 10th.

But as he jumped down from his car into the typical post-race madness, that didn’t matter to Stenhouse. He wanted to celebrate his best finish at Martinsville like it was the Cup win he still seeks.

“Going into today, we had hopes of a better Martinsville than normal, our normal is really bad here,” Stenhouse said. “This is our worst track by far on the circuit, has been since I got to Cup. This is huge momentum. This is almost like a win for us.”

In eight previous starts, Stenhouse’s best result was 15th in the fall 2014 race. Since then, he never finished better than 32nd.

And 70 laps into Sunday’s race, Stenhouse feared his “day was going to go about the normal way it does.”

After starting 24th, the Roush Fenway Racing driver was running in front of Paul Menard in the middle groove as they entered Turn 3. Menard then accidently made contact with Stenhouse, which turned him around and damaged his left-rear quarter panel.

(Menard and Stenhouse shook hands and hugged it out after the race.)

“We fought hard all day, got the car a little bit better,” said Stenhouse, who averaged a running spot of 19.6 during the 500-lap race. “Really good on long runs. I needed long runs. Those cautions there in the middle part of the race really stacked me up, and I lost a lot of spots. But once we got going, I was pretty good.”

After his accident, the biggest fight of Stenhouse’s day came near the end of Stage 2 on Lap 260. The fifth-year driver had been lapped by Kyle Busch, who was bearing down on Austin Dillon on the last lap.

Desperate to remain the first car a lap down before the scheduled caution, Stenhouse intended to give Busch “a nudge” to keep him from passing Dillon. His success looked like a last-lap pass for a race win.

Stenhouse’s fender sent Busch out of the groove, allowing him and Chase Elliott by, with Elliott winning the stage.

Busch said he was trying to allow Stenhouse back by.

“It was hard as I could drive,” said Stenhouse, who added that he “wouldn’t ever make that” move in the pre-stage era. “I got sponsors, fans and a team to take care of. I had to stay on the lead lap. That was a turning point in the race. If the 18 laps the 3 and then we’re stuck a lap down it could ruin our race. I drove as hard as I could and it paid off for us.”

It gave Stenhouse his second top 10 of the season – matching his career high through six races – and his second in three races. The first was a fourth-place finish at Phoenix that came after the No. 17 decided to stay out of the pits before the overtime finish.

“Definitely going to take some momentum,” Stenhouse said. “I think if you look at all our races back to Atlanta we’ve been really good. Had some misfortune, Vegas (finished 33rd), California last week (finished 22nd). But all in all we felt really good today.”

After a race at Martinsville, Stenhouse will take anything that feels good.

“It was nice to complete all 500 laps today and that was our goal coming in.”

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Gotcha! Cole Pearn’s trick is a treat for Martin Truex Jr. at Sonoma

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Martin Truex Jr. took advantage of a strategy play by crew chief Cole Pearn and cruised to his third Cup win of the season Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

Truex’s team faked as if it was going to pit on Lap 73 — Pearn told Truex to pit on the radio — and that brought in Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Truex stayed out another seven laps. With fresher tires, he charged through the field and took the lead shortly before Harvick made his final pit stop on Lap 91. By the time Harvick completed his stop, he was too far back to challenge for the win.

Harvick placed second, finishing 11 seconds behind Truex. 

“That was awesome!” Truex said on the radio after crossing the finish line.

“Basically the 78 faked us out and decided to run seven or eight more laps,” crew chief Rodney Childers told Harvick after Harvick had made the pit stop on Lap 73.

With Truex winning, there remain just six different winners this season.

After the race, Childers apologized to Harvick.

“I kind of let everybody down there. I apologize,” Childers said on the radio.

“All good,” Harvick said. “Always want to win but stuff happens.”

Clint Bowyer placed third. He was followed by Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.

Stage 1 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin

How Martin Truex Jr. won: Crew chief Cole Pearn’s decision to act as if the team would pit on Lap 73 but then hold Truex out seven more laps, put the race in Truex’s hands. With the race going caution-free to the end, the strategy worked perfectly.

Who had a good day: Stewart-Haas Racing placed all four cars in the top 10 for the second time in the team’s history, duplicating what it did at Phoenix in March. Kevin Harvick was second on Sunday, Clint Bowyer placed third, Kurt Busch was sixth and Aric Almirola finished 10th. … Chase Elliott’s fourth-place finish marked the eighth consecutive race he’s finished 12th or better. … Erik Jones‘ seventh-place finish marked his second top-10 result in the last nine races.

Who had a bad day: AJ Allmendinger won the opening stage but then missed a shift and finished last (38th). … The power steering went out on Ryan Blaney’s car with about 50 laps left. Blaney quickly fell in the standings, finishing 34th.

Notable: Martin Truex Jr.’s win snapped a streak of nine different winners in the last nine years at Sonoma.

Next: Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET on July 1 on NBCSN.

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Stage 1 winner AJ Allmendinger blows engine at Sonoma

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AJ Allmendinger lost the engine on his No. 47 Chevrolet on Lap 33 of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway, not long after winning Stage 1.

Allmendinger was running in 13th when the engine blew, a result of a bad shift. It is his first DNF at Sonoma.

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver, a favorite to contend in road course races, had started the race in fifth and made it to second before drifting back.

Once the race leaders pitted with four and three laps left in the stage, Allmendinger took the lead.

Allmendinger has started in the top five in the last five Sonoma races and not finished better than 14th.

“I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports 1. “Just me. I was trying to be so patient, so smooth with it. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here.”

Jamie McMurray also experienced a mechanical issue that caused his engine to shut off and lose oil pressure, ending his day.

 

 

NASCAR community pays tribute to World of Outlaws driver killed in crash

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The NASCAR community paid tribute to World of Outlaws driver Jason Johnson, who died after a sprint car crash Saturday night at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway.

Johnson crashed after a restart racing for the lead. Witnesses said that Johnson’s car flipped and went through billboards outside Turn 3, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Johnson won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals. He finished sixth in the points last year in the World of Outlaws.

 

Today’s Cup race at Sonoma: Start time, lineup and more

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There has been a different winner in each of the last nine Cup races at Sonoma Raceway, site of today’s Cup race. Those nine winners have been Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.

Will there be a 10th different winner at the road course?

Here is all the information for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley will give the command to start engines at 3:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 110 laps (218.9 miles) around the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 10:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:20 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEMBroadway Under The Stars in Sonoma Valley, Transcendence’s Meggie Cansler will perform the anthem at 2:55 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 80 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps to win last year’s race. Clint Bowyer placed second. Brad Keselowski finished third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for full qualification results.