Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Martin Truex Jr. earned his third win of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season Sunday in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.
The win sees Truex climb to third in the playoff standings behind Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
Below are the top-10 finishers, with the full race leaderboard available on NASCAR’s official site:
Toyota/Save Mart 350 Standings
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Chase Elliott
5. Kyle Busch
6. Kurt Busch
7. Erik Jones
8. Aric Almirola
9. Alex Bowman
10. Denny Hamlin
Truex led more laps (62) than any other driver, so the result was more than deserved. In addition, Truex and his crew displayed the kind of gamesmanship that went above and beyond his performance on the track.
Late in the race, Truex crew chief Cole Pearn instructed him to come in to pit road, only to reverse course at the last minute and have him stay out on the track. Truex’s pit crew had even taken their positions on the wall in preparation for his arrival.
Pearn succeeded in getting Kevin Harvick to pit, and NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck outlined why that was so important:
Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck
To recap: Harvick was faster than Truex. Only chance 78 had was to run a trick play and completely faked pitting under green, baiting Harvick to pit. Then Truex stayed out and used fresher tires to blow by Harvick. Now Harvick’s only chance is to catch a caution.
Truex made it clear after the race he wasn’t in on the plan:
The million-dollar question: Were @colepearn and @MartinTruex_Jr using code to trick the competition?
Hear from the driver of the No. 78. https://t.co/Ngux9xG0xH
Truex’s gambit added some entertainment and intrigue to a race that was somewhat short on drama. Especially with the advent of stages on the Monster Energy NASCAR Series, road-course racing doesn’t always provide a great spectacle.
Look no further than the fact Truex finished 10.513 seconds ahead of Harvick, according to FoxSports.com. Third-place finisher Clint Bowyer was 22.079 behind when by the time he crossed the finish line.
In an event where the outcome was decided well before the conclusion, Truex and his crew at least had people talking after the race.
At the exact opposite end of the leaderboard, A.J. Allmendinger got his day off to a great start, winning the first stage and thus collecting 10 stage points. Allmendinger’s race ended shortly thereafter, though, as he blew his engine on the 34th lap:
FOX: NASCAR @NASCARONFOX
“Guys, I blew it up.”
What a tough break for AJ Allmendinger.
“I just missed a shift,” Allmendinger said after arriving back at his trailer, per the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Tom FitzGerald. “I haven’t missed a shift in probably 10 years on a road course. It’s the best gear box that I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Allmendinger wound up in last place (38th) and earned a total of 11 points.
Entering Sunday, 82 points separated Allmendinger from 16th-place Alex Bowman. Even if Allmendinger failed to collect the win that would’ve guaranteed him a playoff berth, exiting the Toyota/Save Mart 350 so early meant losing out on valuable points he needs to climb into the top 16.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Series moves to the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, for the Overton’s 400 on July 1. Truex won in each of the last two years at the track, so he may be able to further consolidate his position on the playoff leaderboard.