Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Truex ends NASCAR Sprint Cup drought at Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. — Six years is a long time to wait for that second trip to Victory Lane, so after Martin Truex ended a 218-race winless streak by breezing to victory in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway road course Sunday, he celebrated, and celebrated some more.

It was Truex's first Cup win since Dover in 2007, his only other victory, and it put Michael Waltrip Racing in Victory Lane for the second year in a row after Clint Bowyer won here last season.

The emotionally spent Truex made this celebration count.

"I was a freaking mess. It was terrible," he said. "I had to stop and start doing donuts because I couldn't think about what I was doing. I tried to key the radio once and I couldn't even talk. So I thought, 'Okay, I'm going to do some donuts and wave to the fans.' But after I stopped the first time and did that, I calmed down a little bit and I just wanted to make sure I took my time coming back, because I remember at Dover it all happens way too fast. You never know when you're going to get that opportunity again."

Truex, 32, blew out his rear tires and took a slow drive to Victory Lane, where the MWR crew was waiting to drink from the winner's enormous wine glass.

"I told them on the radio, if they're waiting on me, too bad. I'm taking my time," he said.

Truex used strategy to stay with the leaders, then he pulled away after the final restart and built a lead of more than six seconds over Juan Pablo Montoya, who was running second until he ran out of gas on the final lap.

Montoya, who expected to at least have a huge points day, dropped to 34th. He took a shortcut to skip the final turn, drifted to the finish and parked, annoyed his Chip Ganassi Racing team never told him to save fuel.

"We've got tools to prevent things like that from happening," Montoya said. "I don't know if all the fuel didn't go. This is what we've been doing all year. … We're 20-something in points because we had a lot of mechanical problems and days like this we throw them away."

Crew chief Chris Heroy was perplexed about the shortage.

"We don't know what happened; we were on the same strategy as (Truex)," Heroy said. "We're going to go back to the shop and figure it out."

Montoya got little sympathy from Kyle Busch, who was spun by Montoya early in the race.

"Awww. My heart melts for @jpmontoya who ran out of gas," Busch tweeted afterward.

Jeff Gordon finished second a week after he was wrecked six laps into the race at Michigan, but he felt like he would have had a chance here if he had not committed to pit seconds before a caution came out.

"We had a tremendous car," Gordon said. "I was hard on the brakes, fully committed. I couldn't turn away from it, I just knew we had to eat it and go on."

Carl Edwards was third, followed by Kurt Busch, who was hit with two speeding penalties.

"Yeah, we were fast, even on pit road. Twice," Busch laughed.

Points leader Jimmie Johnson was ninth and stayed on top.

A prerace accident altered the debut for Paulie Harraka, the first driver to advance from NASCAR's diversity program into a Sprint Cup race. As the cars were headed onto the track, David Reutimann stopped on pit road. Alex Kennedy stopped behind him and Harraka slammed into Kennedy. Harraka's damaged car spun and crashed six laps later.

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