Denny Hamlin started on the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, but a late wreck led to him being the lone retirement. Still, Joe Gibbs Racing had reason to celebrate as his team-mate Martin Truex Jr. completed a dominant day by leading the final fifteen laps following the caution for Hamlin’s crash to score his second win of 2023.
Truex led 53 of 110 laps and held off former JGR driver and last week’s winner Kyle Busch for his fourth win at Sonoma; previous victories came in 2013, 2018, and 2019. Much of Truex’s strong day could be attributed to Sonoma being a technical track without much room for aggression, clean air, and the road course-only lack of cautions for stage breaks.
“It’s tough to pass here, always has been,” said Truex. “There’s only two really good passing zones. Even those are difficult sometimes to get it set up right with a guy, even if he has a little bit older tires. You try to pressure a guy, make him slip somewhere and find an opening. It’s definitely hard to pass.
“Clean air is obviously a big deal. I don’t think it was as bad as last year by any means with the package we have now, with the short track package. I think it was a little bit better than last year, for sure. I could run close to guys. You just lose a little bit of grip. At a track where you’re just sliding all the time, you don’t have much grip to begin with, it makes it tough. But I think for us being the leader, being able to drive away, our car was that good. I could manage tyres easier, not have to run as hard to lead. It always kind of makes the lead look bigger and easier than it is.”
Hamlin led the first thirty-two laps and won Stage #1, but spun across the start/finish line while following William Byron, explaining he “I went to turn left to try to peak under him, and the wall was there.” The crash relegated him to a dubious last after winning the pole at Sonoma for the first time in his career; it was also his second road course pole after Watkins Glen in 2018.
One spot ahead of Hamlin, the lone road course specialist in the field Andy Lally finished thirty-fifth in his first start of the year for Rick Ware Racing.
Aric Almirola, who surprised by winning the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, struggled to a twenty-eighth in a difficult day for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick was the team’s best finisher in eleventh.
With Noah Gragson out due to a concussion, Grant Enfinger made his Cup début in the #42 Legacy Motor Club machine and placed twenty-sixth.
|1||8||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||110||Running|
|2||12||8||Kyle Busch||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|3||17||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||110||Running|
|4||7||17||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|5||10||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|6||5||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|7||3||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||110||Running|
|8||16||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|9||4||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||110||Running|
|10||15||1||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|11||21||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|12||13||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|13||22||41||Ryan Preece||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|14||26||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|15||14||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|16||25||6||Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|17||18||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||110||Running|
|18||6||54||Ty Gibbs||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||110||Running|
|19||11||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|20||19||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|21||23||31||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|22||9||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|23||27||77||Ty Dillon||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|24||32||51||Todd Gilliland||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|25||34||2||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||110||Running|
|26||35||42||Grant Enfinger*||Legacy Motor Club||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|27||36||21||Harrison Burton||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|28||20||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|29||24||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||110||Running|
|30||29||78||Josh Bilicki*||Live Fast Motorsports||Chevrolet||110||Running|
|31||31||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||110||Running|
|32||28||43||Erik Jones||Legacy Motor Club||Chevrolet||109||Running|
|33||2||45||Tyler Reddick||23XI Racing||Toyota||109||Running|
|34||30||38||Zane Smith*||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||109||Running|
|35||33||15||Andy Lally||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||109||Running|
|36||1||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||92||Accident|
* – Ineligible for points