Martin Truex Jr. dominates Kentucky field to score third win of the year

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Once Martin Truex Jr. took control of Saturday night’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, no one else had a chance.

Truex swept both stages and won — the second time this season he’s performed that trick, having done it at Las Vegas.

The only drama late came when Kurt Busch‘s blown engine sent the race into overtime. Truex did not pit, while the other seven cars on the lead lap stopped for tires, giving them fresher tires than Truex.

Didn’t matter.

Truex pulled away on the overtime restart and won it when Matt Kenseth spun off Turn 4 and collected Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon.

“This is completely unbelievable,” Truex told NBCSN on the track after his burnout. “That was a whole lot of fun.”

Kyle Larson finished second. Chase Elliott was third and followed by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Saturday’s victory is the third of the season for Truex and gives him 28 playoffs points with eight races left until NASCAR’s postseason. No one else has more than 16 playoff points.

No one was close to Truex. He had a 14-second lead on second place with 50 laps left. Only 12 cars were on the lead lap with 28 laps left in the race.

All three of Truex’s wins have come at 1.5-mile tracks this season: Las Vegas, Kansas and Kentucky.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

HOW MARTIN TRUEX JR. WON: Simply put, the field couldn’t keep up with him once he got the lead. He had the best car, took advantage of the clean air and had no issues on pit road on the way to his 10th career series victory and first at Kentucky.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Kyle Larson finished second after starting at the rear. He worked his way into the top five and then had to go back to the back when he was caught for speeding on pit road. He motored back though the field to finish second. … Chase Elliott charged to third in overtime to score his fifth top-10 finish in the last six races. … Denny Hamlin overcame a speeding penalty to finish fourth, his third fourth-place finish in the last four races.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson had their race end on a Lap 88 accident when Keselowski spun, got into Clint Bowyer and came across Johnson’s car. Johnson finished 40th, Keselowski placed 39th. … Kasey Kahne had contact with Trevor and both wrecked on the ensuring restart. Bayne returned but had an incident a few laps later and was done for the race. Kahne finished 38th. Bayne placed 37th.

NOTABLE: Kasey Kahne has failed to finish five of the last seven races because of an accident.

LUG NUT INFRACTION: NASCAR announced after the race that Kyle Busch’s car had an unsecured lug nut after the race. That would be a $10,000 fine.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “It is time for the sport to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans.”

NEXT: The series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Overton’s 301 at 3 p.m. ET on July 16 on NBCSN.

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Grant Enfinger wins Truck pole at Gateway

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With a speed of 138.867 mph, Grant Enfinger scored his second career Camping World Truck Series pole and will lead the field to green tonight for the Eaton 200. His first pole came on the restrictor plate Daytona International Speedway in February 2016.

Noah Gragson set a track record in round two of qualification with a speed of 139.035 mph. He slipped to third in the running order during round three.

Enfinger beat Christian Eckes (138.594 mph) by .064 seconds. Eckes is making only his second start in the Truck series. Last week he started ninth and finished eighth at Iowa Speedway.

Gragson (138.402), Justin Haley (138.325) and Ben Rhodes (138.211) rounded out the top five.

Johnny Sauter (137.358) failed to advance to the final round of qualification and will start 13th.

Camden Murphy and BJ McLeod failed to qualify.

Click here for the complete lineup.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma

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Kyle Larson won his second consecutive pole at Sonoma and will lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Martin Truex Jr. will line up alongside Larson on the front row.

Chase Elliott qualified third, the best of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers who advanced to the top 12. Jamie McMurray qualified fourth to place both Chip Ganassi Racing on the first two rows.

AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top five.

Click here for full qualification results.

 

Kyle Larson wins pole for Sonoma Cup race

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Kyle Larson posted a lap of 94.597 mph to win the pole for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350. It was his second consecutive pole at Sonoma and the sixth of his career.

Larson beat Martin Truex Jr. (94.484 mph) by .090 seconds.

Chase Elliott (94.461), Jamie McMurray (94.227) and AJ Allmendinger (93.925) rounded out the top five. He was fastest in round one of qualification with a speed of 94.477 mph.

Hendrick Motorsports placed three of their drivers in the final round. Jimmie Johnson (93.824) qualified seventh. William Byron (93.756) qualified eighth. Alex Bowman (93.267) qualified 17th.

In his first race back since Matt Kenseth took over the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Trevor Bayne barely missed advancing to the final round. With a speed of 93.455 mph, he qualified 13th.

Clint Bowyer (93.252) was unable to back up his time from Friday’s practice and will roll off the grid 19th.

Click here for full qualification results.

For Clint Bowyer, Sonoma Raceway is a lot like Martinsville

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Clint Bowyer didn’t grow up road racing; he cut his teeth on dirt tracks in the Midwest. And yet, he had an immediate affinity for Sonoma Raceway. In his second start there, while driving for Richard Childress in 2007, he finished fourth.

In fact, Bowyer enters the Toyota/SaveMart 350 with seven top-five finishes in 12 starts that includes a runner-up finish in last year’s Sonoma race. If not for a couple of misfortunes (crash damage in 2010 and an electrical problem in 2016), he might well have swept the top 10 since scoring that first top five as a sophomore.

Perhaps the reason for that immediate success is that he considers Sonoma to be a twisted version of Martinsville Speedway – a track on which he won this March to snap a 190-race winless streak.

“I think you embrace this track and road racing in general just like you do Martinsville,” Bowyer said on Friday before heading out to put his No. 14 Ford at the top of the first practice speed chart. “Nobody shows up at Martinsville and goes to the top of the board and is fast and has success and navigates traffic to win that race right off the bat. It just doesn’t happen and it doesn’t happen here either.”

His Sonoma success has not translated to road courses in general, however.

Yes, Bowyer swept the top five on NASCAR’s two road courses last year, but the fifth-place finish he scored at Watkins Glen International was only the second of his career on a track that many drivers consider to be less technical than Sonoma. In 12 starts there, he has earned only five top 10s.

“Watkins Glen is so fast. It is just dive-bombs and you are really carrying a lot of speed at a place like Watkins Glen.

“Here, it is like that short track. It is like being at Martinsville. Did you see my car at the end of the race last year? It was destroyed. I drove up through and passed the field twice because of mistakes that we made and got spun out once. It was a wild race to be able to finish second. You can’t do that at Watkins Glen. That car wouldn’t have ran in the top 10 at Watkins Glen.”

Nine different drivers have won at Sonoma in the last nine races. Given the dominance of Harvick (who won last year) and Kyle Busch (the 2015 winner), many think they are the most likely to end that streak. But Bowyer also has an opportunity to end the streak of unique winners. He won the 2012 edition of this race by holding off Tony Stewart – the driver with the second-most road course wins in NASCAR history.

“You have to be able to have fun on this race track,” Bowyer said. “It is a challenge. Each and every corner is different. There is no perfect setup or perfect line. It is literally one of the only tracks you go to where you are out there racing and have a smile on your face. You might even get a chuckle.”