Sonoma, Calif. — Martin Truex Jr. was running second as the laps dwindled in Sonoma, and crew chief Cole Pearn didn’t think they were as fast as Kevin Harvick.
Pearn told his team to prepare for a pit stop on the 73rd lap, and he told Truex over the radio to bring in the car.
It was all trickery.
Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, called in his driver for tires and fuel in anticipation of Truex’s stop — but Pearn’s driver actually stayed out for seven more laps. When Truex finally pitted, he got the fresh tires he needed to blow past Harvick for a sweet victory.
“I called him off at the last second,” Pearn said with a sly smile. “As far as he knew, we were pitting. I’d like to say we’re smart enough to use codes, but we’re not. We’d probably mess it up.”
Truex won the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma on Sunday because of that clever pit bluff, cruising to his second career victory on the challenging road course.
Truex easily held off Harvick for his second win in three weeks and his third victory of the season in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Truex led 62 laps and won by a whopping 10.513 seconds.
“The last 10 laps of the race were easy,” Truex said. “A little stressful. I was just hoping for no cautions, because I had a big lead. This place is so tricky and so technical, but when you start to take care of your equipment and have time to think, it’s almost harder. You can overshoot a corner easily.”
The defending Cup Series champion didn’t make a mistake after he waited to pit until the 81st lap, a full eight laps later than Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. With fresh tires, Truex passed Harvick for the lead around the final hairpin turn with 19 laps to go.
“That was all Cole,” Truex said. “I’ll do whatever he wants to do. Awesome job by him today. … Honestly, all you’re doing is begging, hoping that the caution doesn’t come out and hope the engine stays together.”
Truex’s victory in his manufacturer’s title race was the 18th of his career. He earned his second career victory at Sonoma in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing, making him the only racer to win twice in the past decade at Sonoma.
Cup Series leader Harvick went to the pits shortly after Truex passed him, but never got the caution that would have been necessary for him to catch up. Clint Bowyer finished third and Chase Elliott was fourth.
Truex began his racing career as a kid running go-karts on road courses, and those lifelong skills are showing. After winning at Watkins Glen last year and taking Sonoma this year, his three career road course victories are second among active drivers to the four wins on non-oval tracks by Kyle Busch, who finished fifth in Sonoma.
“I enjoy them,” Truex said. “I think it’s fun to do something different.”
Josef Newgarden put in a lot of work to make his win at Road America look easy.
With no caution flags all afternoon to slow him down, the pole-sitting Newgarden finally pulled away late from Ryan Hunter-Reay for a comfortable victory.
Newgarden led 53 of 55 laps, crossing the finish line with a 3.38-second cushion over second-place finisher Hunter-Reay for his third win of the season.
“We had our work cut out for us today,” Newgarden said. “We had to be perfect.”
The defending series champion savored the victory in the 222-mile-long Kohler Grand Prix on his cool-down lap, taking in the crowd at the rural Wisconsin road course. Newgarden has such a devoted following here that fans planted a garden in his honor in time for this weekend’s race.
The victory might have been more satisfying. It completed an impressive weekend for the Team Penske driver at the 14-turn track, where Newgarden’s No. 1 Chevy registered the top speed in practice.
Points leader Scott Dixon finished third. He was part of the three-car pack led by Newgarden that separated from the field with about 13 laps left.
Hamilton regains F1 lead
Lewis Hamilton capitalized on a mistake by rival Sebastian Vettel to enjoy a wire-to-wire victory at the French Grand Prix and retake the lead in the Formula One title race.
Starting third behind Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, Vettel tried to use his faster set of tires to make a good start.
But the German’s lunge on the inside of the first corner crunched his Ferrari into the back of Bottas, damaging both cars and sending them into the pits for repairs.
Vettel emerged with a new front wing and the entire field to fight through, and even though he made quick work of the slower cars he had to settle for a fifth-place finish.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari crossed second and third to complete the podium at the Paul Ricard Circuit. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fourth.
Defending champion Hamilton has 145 points after eight races. Vettel, who entered the race with a one-point lead, leaves trailing by 14.
It was Hamilton’s 65th career win. Only Michael Schumacher has more victories with 91.