Martin Truex Jr. had a fast car and a brilliant crew chief that landed him in Victory Lane at Sonoma Raceway.
Cole Pearn baited Kevin Harvick into pitting early in the final stage. Truex and Harvick had run together all day on the same strategy, but when Pearn started calling Truex on the radio to pit road inside 40 laps to go — it wasn’t for real. Truex stayed out while Harvick came down pit road with 38 laps to go.
Truex stayed on track and didn’t hit pit road for his final stop until there were 30 laps to go. The cycle saw Harvick take the lead with 28 remaining while Truex had to come from third and over six seconds behind.
With 20 laps to go, Truex did indeed catch Harvick and took the lead. With nothing left they could do, Harvick and Clint Bowyer would pit again, sealing the victory for Truex. Truex beat Harvick, who climbed back to second, by over 10 seconds.
“No, that’s all Cole. It’s all him,” Truex said of whether he knew about the decision to trick the competition. “That was amazing. I’m cool with whatever he wants to do. I tell him all the time, win, lose, or draw we do it together, and I just got a lot of trust in him. I don’t need to say anything when he says pit or don’t pit, I just do what he wants to do. Awesome job by him today.”
Bowyer finished third, and Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five. Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin completed the top 10.
The victory was the third of the season for Truex and his second in three races. It was also his second at Sonoma Raceway. He led a total of 62 of the race’s 110 laps.
AJ Allmendinger won stage one but was forced to exit the race early in the second stage when he missed a shift and blew the engine on lap 34.
“It’s completely on me guys,” he dejectedly told his JTG Daugherty team as the car came to a stop past the start/finish line.
Pit strategy at the end of the event’s first 25 laps moved Allmendinger into the lead. He had been stalking Martin Truex Jr. through most of the stage, and when Truex, Harvick, and others pitted, Allmendinger and the No. 47 team stayed on track.
Stage two started with Truex and Harvick again at the front of the field. Those who had stayed out at the end of the first stage gave up their track position for service under the caution.
Truex led most of the second stage but was passed by Harvick on Lap 42. Strategy again shook up the leaderboard at the end of the stage. Hamlin won the stage as Harvick, Truex and other pitted before pit road closed for the stage break.
The final stage was again Harvick and Truex up front, followed closely by Bowyer and Kurt and Kyle Busch. Harvick was the leader for much of the stage before giving way to Truex as he pitted with 38 laps to go and strategy decided the race.