Martin Truex Jr. came into Sonoma with three wins at the Northern California road course, including winning the last two races held there.
In the end he never led a lap and had to settle for third.
“Our only hope was for it really to go green the rest of the race there in that third stage once we both pitted and we were one-two,” Truex said. “He (Kyle Larson) drove by me and he was just super fast for 10 laps. Our only chance was if the race would have gone green from there and I still don’t even know. He was really fast for 15 laps then obviously once we started getting all those cautions, we were toast. Definitely not what we needed.”
So where was Larson stronger than Truex?
“I think just a little bit everywhere,” Truex said. “Right-handers, I just couldn’t lean on the left rear like I needed too. I didn’t quite have the drive off. More so than that, I didn’t have the short-run speed. I think the really long runs was really our only chance there. All of those cautions at the end killed any chance we had. I’m proud of the guys on the Bass Pro Toyota, JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), TRD, everybody that makes this possible. Just not quite good enough. The Hendrick cars are really strong right now. They are really fast. They are making a lot of grip. They are making our job tough. We definitely needed long runs at the end, not all of those cautions.”
Truex started 19th, but for once the field wasn’t set by a qualifying and there was no practice; none of that mattered to Truex.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “When you’re starting 19th at a track where track position matters, you’re like, ‘Damn, I wish we were qualifying.’ As far as like being comfortable going on the race track and racing without practice, we’ve been doing this for awhile now. Aside from maybe the guys that haven’t been here before, I think everybody was okay with it.”
Hendrick Motorsports has been the team to beat lately (Hendrick driver Chase Elliott was second ahead of Truex), but Truex said Joe Gibbs Racing is working on closing the gap with the focus on the fast-approaching Playoff season.
“We definitely have some work to do to catch them,” he said. “That being said, there’s always a chance. We’ve got a great team and great cars and we have some time to get with it and hopefully make some gains. When the Playoffs start, a lot of weird things can happen and you have to take what you can get. Luckily for us, we have some good tracks in the Playoffs, which is always good. They’re definitely strong and we definitely need to keep working on it.”