Martin Truex Jr. gave Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota their 10th win in 16 races this season after dominating the final stage of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. The final 50 laps were a battle for the lead between teammates, Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch. Busch was able to cut an eight-second lead down to under a second, but he did not have enough to contend for a pass due to the tires being overworked and losing traction. This was Truex Jr.’s fourth win of the 2019 season. He is now even with Busch for the most wins so far this season. Ryan Blaney picked up his first top-five finish of the season since Bristol.
Matt DiBenedetto was the story of the day with a career-best fourth place finish. Many have questioned if DiBenedetto was on the “hot seat” following disappointing for the majority of the season, but those questions should be put to rest after DiBenedetto was able to make clean passes on Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick to cap off a phenomenal day. DiBenedetto showed today that he is far better than what the 95 car, out of Leavine Family Racing, has given him.
A promising day for Hendrick Motorsports turned to disaster in the final stage as no driver for them was able to finish in the top ten. William Byron started on the front row and led every lap of stage one. Due to pit strategy and staying out at the end of stages one and two to get the stage points, Byron sacrificed track position and could not work his way back to the front of the field. Byron settled for a 19th-place finish. Alex Bowman ran inside the top ten for most of the race until he lost power steering with around 25 laps to go. He was able to hang in the race but fell back and finished 14th. Jimmie Johnson would start out stages strong, but the 48 car would have a massive falloff with tire wear and dropped numerous spots in all three stages. He finished 12th for the day. The biggest disappointment of the day came from Chase Elliott. Elliott was running second prior to the final pit stop when he lost oil pressure and the engine gave away. Elliott wound up finishing 37th.
Today’s race provided little action, despite the return of the original “carousel” course. There were no natural passes for the lead. Unless you were DiBenedetto, you could not work your way through the field regardless of how strong your car was. Sonoma has a history of producing uneventful racing and today was no different. Come 2021, the Northern California circuit may need to be replaced with another short track such as Portland or Road America.
FOX’s NASCAR broadcast duties are over for 2019 and Darrell Waltrip’s 19-year broadcasting career has come to an end. Other than the truck series, NASCAR shifts to NBC for the remainder of the season with the first broadcast coming from Chicagoland Speedway next weekend.
Photo via Jonathan Ferry | Getty Images