Race Weekend Central

Sonoma: The Race JGR Would Like to Forget

SONOMA, Calif. — Sometimes it’s not your day.

For Joe Gibbs Racing, Sunday’s (June 9) NASCAR Cup Series event at Sonoma Raceway was probably one the team would like to burn the tape and never speak of again.

See also
Kyle Larson Snags Sonoma Win

Chistopher Bell finished ninth for his third top-10 finish in a row, but that was about the only good thing that happened for JGR, as the rest of the race was an unmitigated disaster.

It took not even two laps for JGR’s trip to Wine Country to go south, as Denny Hamlin had a surprising engine failure that took him out of the race before it even began.

“Random blow up,” Hamlin said. “I haven’t had one in some time, but not ideal for sure.

“I didn’t notice anything. Just trying to get up to speed, but that was out of the blue for sure down the straightaway.”

In the first restart of the day, Martin Truex Jr. got spun from 20th place and dropped all the way back to 37th.

Meanwhile, Ty Gibbs was having the best performance of the JGR quartet, as he started 10th and was running there in first dozen laps. But on lap 16, Gibbs hit the new wall in turn 11 while rounding the hairpin, and he crashed in turn 12 after the contact damaged the right front of the No. 54.

“I hit the inside wall, was finding a grip down there and picking up time and got too close and clipped the wall and hurt the right front,” Gibbs said. “I think we needed to make some adjustments to be a little bit tighter in the sweeping sections, but I just made a mistake and took us out of this day.”

Hamlin and Gibbs were the first two cautions in a race that had eight — one short of the all-time record of nine at Sonoma, which occurred in 1990.

The sixth caution of the day came out on lap 35, as Josh Berry locked up the brakes entering turn 11 and became a pinball in a crash that collected nearly a dozen cars. Bell got spun out in the mess, while Truex also received slight damage to the front of his car.

After a chaotic first half, the second proved to be nice and calm, as the race ended with a caution-free final stage and a 51-lap green-flag run to the finish.

The No. 19 team had overcome the earlier spin and damage through pit strategy, and Truex restarted the final stage in third. When the dust settled, it was Chris Buescher and Truex battling for the lead with 10 laps to go, while third-place Kyle Larson was rapidly closing on the lead duo with fresher tires.

Truex passed Buescher to take the lead with nine to go, but it didn’t last long, as Larson got him just a few corners later. Truex kept pace with the No. 5 car despite the tire disadvantage, but he was two seconds behind Larson by the time the white flag waved.

While not a win, it looked like Truex would at least record a runner-up finish and stay within striking distance of the regular-season points lead. But everyone was treated to a late-race fuel-related surprise for the second week in a row, as Truex ran out of gas in the final turns and was passed by the entire field.

Truex did cross the finish line at approximately 5 mph, much to the delight of the Northern California crowd. But what could’ve been a top five instead turned into a 27th-place result, and Truex sputtering on the final lap proved to be the cherry on top of the you-know-what sundae for JGR at Sonoma.

“It stinks,” Truex told Frontstretch. “We worked hard all day to have a good finish, clearly in second, [and we] run out of the gas in the last corners. So I don’t know. Just one of them years.”

Much like Ryan Blaney running out of fuel on the final lap at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Truex’s crew chief James Small said that there was no indication that the No. 19 car was short on fuel in the closing laps.

“No,” Small told Frontstretch. “Just thought we were at least half a lap to the good there, and obviously we were about an eighth of a lap short.”

As the old saying goes, there’s always next week.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch and is a three-year veteran of the site. His weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” He also writes commentary, contributes to podcasts, edits articles and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage.

Can find on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Echo

I feel really bad for hamlin.

DoninAjax

I get the sarcasm! You didn’t say how long the feeling lasted.

Last edited 2 days ago by DoninAjax
wally

I guess everyone’s favorite driver beat him

Drew

Man tough day for half of the cars for Joe Gibbs racing oh well better luck next week.

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