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 before telling Truex to stay out — and that brought in Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Truex stayed out another eight 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 10.5 seconds behind Truex — the largest margin of victory at Sonoma.
“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. The last time there were so few of winners this late in the season was 1978 (there were five winners at this point in 1978).
After the race, Childers apologized to Harvick for the pit call.
“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.”
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 eight 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.
Quote of the day: “We knew we were going to do one stop. That was kind of our plan. We just – we really needed them to pit earlier for it to work out. It was a bit of a gamble obviously, but obviously it paid off and worked out great,” crew chief Cole Pearn on his winning strategy.
Next: Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET on July 1 on NBCSN.