Sonoma Race Recap
With tight racing conditions creating some hard racing and fuel strategies often mixing up the field, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA becomes one of the season’s most intense battles.
When it was over it was Joey Logano leading Joe Gibbs Racing with a strong sixth-place run, while Kyle Busch battled to an 11th-place finish, and Denny Hamlin found his day spoiled with a broken track bar mount following contact on the track that left him in 37th position.
For the second time in his young career Joey Logano started his No. The 20 Home Depot Toyota on the pole after posting the field’s fastest qualifying lap on Friday afternoon in Sonoma. Logano would lead the first five laps of the race before tight conditions began to plague his No. 20 Camry. He was still racing inside the top 20 one-third of the way into the race and deftly managed to avoid the day’s first accident on lap 38. He would climb his way back into the top 15 and was racing 13th on lap 45. A caution on lap 47 would allow Logano to come down pit road for additional adjustments on his car, but with several cars staying out on the track he would have to restart in the 19th position on lap 50. It didn’t take Logano long however to climb his way back toward the top 10 as he took over the 12th position. He was racing his way into the top 10 when he lost several positions avoiding a spinning car on lap 69. It is all part of the ebb and flow of a race at Infineon. But in the end, Logano would finish on a high note. When the race’s final caution came out on lap 87, crew chief Greg Zipadelli had Logano bring the No. 20 Camry down pit road for four fresh tires. Logano proved that the decision was the right one over the course of the final 18 laps to the finish, driving hard inside the top ten to come away with an impressive sixth-place finish.
Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Pretzel Toyota in the 24th position and quickly began to make his way through the field on this challenging tight road course. Busch was battling his way toward the top 10 when Juan Pablo Montoya forced him into the grass. Busch managed to remain on the course and avoid several spinning cars just moments later. By lap 45 Busch would finally earn his way into the top 10 despite the earlier setback. Busch would restart fifth on lap 50 and would remain inside the top 10 for much of the remainder of the race. When the day’s final caution came out on lap 87, crew chief Dave Rogers and the M&Ms team made the decision for one final pit stop for fresh tires. The move lost Busch track position, but the fresh tires proved essential to an impressive run that saw the driver of the M&Ms Camry climb from 17 to inside the top-five and on his way for what appeared to be a likely third or fourth-place finish. Unfortunately Busch would have his momentum stalled late in the race when he got spun trying to avoid an incident between Brad Keselowski and Juan Pablo Montoya. He was able to get his No. 18 M&Ms Pretzel Toyota turned back around, but fell all the way back to the 15th position. The set back didn’t deter Busch however as he managed to get four of those positions back to finish an impressive 11th despite the late setback.
Hamlin started in the fourth position and quickly ascended to the front of the field to take the lead from his teammate Joey Logano on lap 6. Hamlin would lead for seven laps before giving way to the No. 22 car of Kurt Busch. Hamlin would re-take the lead again following the first round of pit stops. The two would trade spots following a restart on lap 37 again and it appeared that the two would likely battle for the lead for much of the day. However, contact to rear of Hamlin by the No. 43 car on lap 42 would force the No. 11 Camry into the side of the 56 car. Hamlin would lose several positions on the track, but the long term impact wouldn’t be revealed until several laps later. Hamlin would report on the radio that it felt as if something had broke underneath the left rear of the car and a pit stop under caution on lap 61 would confirm his fear with a broken track bar mount that would require repairs in the garage. Hamlin would return to the track on lap 70, but his day was ruined 10 laps off the pace of the leaders. He would go on to finish 37th.
Kurt Busch captured the victory, while Jeff Gordon was second, Carl Edwards third, Clint Bowyer fourth, and Marcos Ambrose was fifth. There were five cautions for a total of 17 laps and 12 lead changes among nine different drivers over the course of the 110-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to where the season started with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway next Saturday night, July 2. Live Coverage on TNT will start at 6:30 PM ET (race starts at 7:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.