SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. won the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma on Sunday, using a clever pit strategy to cruise to his second career victory on the challenging road course.
Truex easily held off Kevin Harvick for his second win in three weeks and his third victory of the season in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota.
The defending Cup Series champion waited to pit until the 81st lap, a full eight laps later than Harvick. Truex and his crew chief, Cole Pearn, appeared to use a bit of trickery on the decision, bluffing an earlier move to the pits and enticing Harvick into pit lane instead.
The decision left fresher tires on Truex’s car down the stretch and allowed him to pass Harvick for the lead around the final hairpin turn with 20 laps to go.
“That was all Cole,” Truex said. “I’ll do whatever he wants to do. Awesome job by him today. … Honestly, all you’re doing is begging, hoping that the caution doesn’t come out and hope the engine stays together.”
Truex’s victory in his manufacturer’s title race was the 18th of his career. He earned his second career victory at Sonoma in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing, making him the only racer to win twice in the past decade at Sonoma.
Cup Series leader Harvick went to the pits shortly after Truex passed him, but never got the caution that would have been necessary for him to catch up. Clint Bowyer finished third and Chase Elliott was fourth.
Truex began his racing career as a kid running go-karts on road courses, and those lifelong skills are showing. After winning at Watkins Glen last year and taking Sonoma this year, his three career road course victories are second among active drivers to the four wins on non-oval tracks by Kyle Busch, who finished fifth in Sonoma.
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