By Crystal Clay & Adam Carabine
Coming into this weekend, Martin Truex Jr. had three wins to his name at Sonoma Raceway, the most out of any active driver. But any driver worth their salt is never satisfied, always searching for the next win.
The Toyota/Save Mart 350 made it four for Truex, as he beat former teammate Kyle Busch by just under 3 seconds. The two veteran drivers have finished 1-2 many times over the course of their career, but this was the first time it’s happened with Busch at his new team, the 8 car for RCR.
Martin Truex Jr. had nice things to say about Busch after the race.
“I think Kyle and I have raced together long enough and have enough respect for one another to race hard but race clean. I think we understand each other, know our limits. We’ve had some great races… we’ve battled for the lead for wins a bunch and he’s great to race with.”
The normally fiery Kyle Busch was all smiles after the race, joking “The Toyotas were terrible on road courses last year and here they are kicking our butt. So, I guess just get Kyle out and you guys will be ok.”
Truex’s car was clearly the fastest all day. Despite some untimely cautions, he was consistently able to make his way back to the front of the field. Once he got the lead, it was impossible to take it from him.
“It’s definitely hard to pass, and clean air is a big deal. I don’t think it was as bad as last year, by any means. I think for us, being the leader, we don’t drive away, just our car was that good. I could manage tires easier, and not have to run as hard to lead, which always kind of makes the lead get bigger and look easier than it is.”
Last season, Truex went winless, and many questioned whether he was going to step away from full-time racing. He quieted the doubters at the first event of the season, the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. It wasn’t a points race, but it reminded him that he could still win.
“It was a big deal for us, just to understand that we were making the right decisions. Short tracks were a struggle for us last year. To go to the Clash and to do that, it was like ‘ok - we’re going down the right road here.’ That was a good confidence booster, and confidence is a huge part of this.”
“We never gave up believing in each other, we just kept working hard. We were like, we’ve just got to work harder, we’ve got to be smarter, we’ve got to make better decisions. You put better cars with that, the next thing you know, you’re winning races, you’re leading laps again.”
Truex now has two wins (for points) this season, and his win at Sonoma also pushed him to the points lead.
Joey Logano finished in third, and last year’s runner-up Chris Buescher had another strong showing in fourth. Chase Elliott, fresh off of his suspension, returned to the track with a solid top-5.
Elliott added, “I was proud of how we did it there at the end. We were in a not-so-ideal situation on tires, with no buffer, and were able to hang on to fifth. That was one of our better runs there at the end.”
The NASCAR Cup Series takes its lone off-week next weekend, before visiting Nashville Superspeedway on June 25th.