By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
SONOMA, Calif. – There was no Sonoma Raceway three-peat for Martin Truex, Jr during Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350. In fact, the three-time track winner didn’t even lead a lap at all. What he was able to do was finish third, behind Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling last year’s race, Truex entered as the defending race winner. Of course, the question was can he still get the job done in “Wine Country” despite a two-year gap?
Truex felt that he needed a long run to have a remote chance of beating the Hendrick duo. That wasn’t the case as the last portion of the race was a battle of avoiding getting caught in wrecks. Fortunately, the madness was behind him, but it didn’t help his cause on being a contender for the win.
“I didn’t have the short-run speed. I think the really long runs was really our only chance there,” said Truex. “All of those cautions at the end killed any chance we had.”
If there was on thing Truex felt that could’ve improved his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, it would be a bit of everything.
“Right-handers, I just couldn’t lean on the left rear like I needed too,” Truex commented. “I didn’t quite have the drive off.”
Despite not scoring a fourth Sonoma win, Truex was still proud of the effort. But the chance of beating Larson in particular, forget about it.
“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 on Larson. “He 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.”
Still sitting sixth in the regular season standings, Truex ends a three-race skid of finishing outside the top-15. His last top-five prior to Sunday was his win at Darlington last month.