UPS Game-Changing Moments: Sonoma
June 23, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
FOUR TIRES ARE BETTER THAN TWO
Jimmie Johnson restarted 16th on two new tires, while Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a group that changed four tires under the yellow. The new tires made a difference, as Gordon, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer all charged into the top five.
“This is one of those crazy types of races where pit strategy goes all over the place and you never know what might happen,” Gordon said after his second-place finish. “We were on a three-stop strategy and that’s why we wanted to come in when we did.
“The way things have been going on the track for me haven’t been great and the way things have been going with the calls haven’t been going his way either. But, wow, we finally had a race car that was fantastic with this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. And the pit crew and Alan (Gustafson) the rest of the day were just spot-on.”
SAVING FUEL WINS THE RACE
Led by Martin Truex Jr., the top 15 cars stayed on the track, all close on fuel to finish the race, during the eighth caution at Lap 82.
Staying out was a winning move for Truex, who built a five-second lead with 10 laps left and cruised to a 218-race drought-ending victory.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Truex said after climbing from his car in Victory Lane. “I’ve got so many people to thank for sticking with me … We’ve had cars really fast all year long. We’ve had some tough luck, but that’s part of racing.”
Truex had finished second six times since his 2007 win.
“I’m just proud of these guys for sticking behind me and working hard and giving me race cars like this,” he said. “My pit crew’s really turned it on lately, and today was just our day. We’ve had a lot of days when it wasn’t our day, and today it was just our time.
“The car was flawless, and I tried to forget about what was behind me and focus on winning. We’re going to get a bunch of them now -- I can tell you that much.”
STAYING OUT PROVES COSTLY
On Sunday at Sonoma, Truex beat second-place Gordon by and even bigger margin -- 8.133 seconds -- as Juan Pablo Montoya dropped from the second position after running out of fuel on the next-to-last lap.
It’s been that kind of year for Montoya.
“To be honest with you, with all the things that have happened, you almost expect something like that to happen,’’ Montoya said shaking his head and mustering a smile as he walked quickly through the Sonoma garage.
“It’s what we’ve been doing all year. It’s hard. We work together and are trying to do the best we can and this is why we are 20-something in points. We’re not 20-something in points because we’re not running fast. We’ve had a lot of mechanical problems and then days like this, we threw it away.’’
The finish drops Montoya to 23rd in the Sprint Cup Series points standings on a weekend where the former Indy 500 winner and Formula One standout had expected to make a run at a Chase Wild Card berth. A victory this weekend on a course where he is always favored, would have notonly helped immensely toward getting him into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. It would have been well-timed momentum for a team that has more often had something derail a seemingly promising finish. Mechanical problems, restarts, pit stop miscues and now this.
His crew chief Chris Heroy was as puzzled as Montoya.
“We don’t know what happened,’’ Heroy said. “We were on the same strategy as the 56 (Truex) so we will go back to the shop and figure it out.’’
NASCAR Wire Service and NASCAR.com's Holly Cain contributed to this report.