There is an old and prophetic saying that “Nobody’s perfect”. Martin Truex Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team proved that wrong Sunday and perhaps earned themselves a “Best Actor” Oscar nomination. Playing off a perfect pit call, and playing the rest of the field, Truex cruised to victory Sunday in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
It was the third win of the season for Truex, his third on a road course and the 18th of his career.
With varying strategies playing out as they normally do on a road course, near the halfway mark it appeared that Kevin Harvick was on his way to a second consecutive Sonoma win. Harvick would lead 35 laps on the day and was leading in the final stage. With everyone needing one more stop, on lap 73 Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn called his driver in. The crew got up in the wall as if to prepare to pit the car. The move might have lured Harvick in who pitted.
Truex however stayed out.
He waited until lap 80 to make his pit stop, and with much fresher tires was soon slicing into Harvick’s lead. By lap 88 he was 1.7 seconds back and regained the lead on lap 90. From there he began to pull away.
“That was amazing,” Truex said of his crew chief’s call. “I’m cool with whatever he wants to do. I tell him all the time, like you know win, lose or draw, we do it together and I just got a lot of trust in him. I don’t even say anything when he says pit or don’t pit. I just did what he wants to do, so awesome job by him today.”
Harvick would pit again bringing his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer with him on lap 92 and knowing that their only hope for a win from that point would be a caution in the final laps.
After Harvick pitted, Truex had a lead over then second place Chase Elliott of 23 seconds.
Harvick would eventually cut into the lead of Truex, taking second with 9 laps to go. He ran out of time however and with no cautions in the final laps Truex won by 11 seconds.
“I don’t really know what is going on up on the pit box and who is doing what,” Harvick said. “I just do what I am told. Those guys do a great job. You make some right ones, you make some bad ones and sometimes you guess right and sometimes you guess wrong. Who knows what is right or wrong. I thought that was a good call at the end to put tires on in case the caution came out. We got right back up to where we were running and put ourselves in position to have a chance in case the caution came out.”
Behind Harvick, Bowyer was able to secure third with Elliott and Kyle Busch completing the top 5.
“You never know how these things are going to go,” Truex said. “Last year, I felt like we had the best car and we didn’t win and then this year I wasn’t sure we could beat the 4 (Kevin Harvick). We were real equal. He was better early in the race. I felt like we caught up to him a little, but he was going to be hard to beat either way. To get off strategy was the perfect call and then you just hope it works out for you, so sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield. Today we made the right call and it all worked out.”
For Pearn, he said the pit stop feint wasn’t something they had planned.
“Yeah, we’re not that smart,” Pearn said. “He probably screwed up. I was telling him to pit and he probably thought he was pitting. At the end of the day it worked out and we’re sitting in victory lane, so it’s good.”
Polesitter Kyle Larson led only two laps and could only manage a 14th place finish.
Perennial road course favorite AJ Allmendinger would take control early in the race and using pit strategy won Stage 1. He would blow an engine by a missed shift shortly after the restart after that stage and finished 37th. Jamie McMurray would also fall victim to a missed shift and end the day in the garage.
Denny Hamlin won Stage 2 but led only 4 laps and finished 10th. In front of him Kurt Busch was sixth, Erik Jones seventh, Aric Almirola eighth and Alex Bowman ninth.