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Sonoma Race Report

Sonoma Raceway proved to be anything but friendly for Joe Gibbs Racing this Sunday afternoon. Matt Kenseth’s 19th-place finish led the team in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota SaveMart 350, while Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were both dealt multiple setbacks and forced to settle for disappointing 23rd and 35th finishes respectively.

Kenseth started the No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota in sixth and was able to remain in the top-five through the early going, but once pit stops began, so did multiple strategies as teams tried calculate how best to manage fuel mileage on the 1.99-mile road course racetrack. Now shuffled back in the pack, Kenseth found the handling on his No. 20 Camry extremely tight as he raced his way back inside the top 20. The field continued to shuffle through different pit strategies and crew Jason Ratcliff and the Home Depot crew continued to make adjustments to help Kenseth drive back toward the front of the field. What proved to be the final caution of the day came out on lap 82 and the team made the decision to remain out on the track and restart second. Kenseth was able to hold that position through the restart but began sliding back through the field as he went into full fuel saving mode over the final ten or so laps. He would finish back in 19th.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight in the 17th position and was patiently battling his way forward through the early portion of the race. Unfortunately contact by the No. 14 car of Tony Stewart on lap 69 would prove damaging to any hopes of a win or even a solid finish. The contact would cause damage to the front nose of the FedEx Camry and required repairs. Although Hamlin remained on the lead lap he would have to restart at the back of the field. He would manage to salvage what he could despite the damaged car and Hamlin would go on to finish 23rd.

Busch started his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in ninth and appeared to have a strong racecar capable or running with the leaders. Unfortunately his first setback would come early courtesy of contact from the No. 42 car of Juan Pablo Montoya that sent Busch spinning on just the third lap. He would fall back to 27th and would restart 35th on lap nine following a caution, but still proved able to quickly drive his way back through the field once again as he climbed back inside the top 20. Another setback would come in the form of a pit road speeding penalty but once again Busch showed poised as he battled his way toward the top 15 once again. Unfortunately the final blow proved to be too great however as the 99 car of Carl Edwards made contact with Busch on lap 83 and sent him into the tires causing a lot of damage to the right side of the M&Ms Camry. The 18 team would manage to make repairs in order to keep the car on the track and allow Busch to complete the race, but he would finish a disappointing 35th.

Martin Truex, Jr. won the race, followed by Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five. There were seven full track cautions for a total of 19 laps and 10 lead changes among eight different drivers.