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Martin Truex Jr. wins Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway

  • Martin Truex Jr., celebrates his victory at the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday June 22, 2013 in Sonoma. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

SONOMA — The moment of truth came on lap 83 when Carl Edwards clipped Kyle Busch and sent him reeling off the track at Turn 8, initiating a yellow caution flag. With 27 laps remaining for the contending cars, they were at a metaphoric crossroads: pit one final time or gut it out with the trim they had.

Only 15 cars stayed on the track. One of them was the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota driven by Martin Truex Jr.

“You made your bed, so at that point it was what it was,” explained Truex’s crew chief, Chad Johnston. “We (had) pitted and topped off with fuel, and I had already made the decision that no matter what, we weren’t coming back. So you just had to hope that it went your way, and if it does, great, and if not, you’ve got to find a way to overcome it.”

NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350

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For once, it went Truex’s way. After a series of unfortunate events at Sonoma Raceway and an improbable winless streak that reached 218 races and dated back to June 2007, Truex drove the race of his life Sunday and almost made it look easy in winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Truex took the lead for good on lap 86, stayed out of trouble and, perhaps most amazing, never got reeled in by another caution. He finished 8.133 seconds ahead of Jeff Gordon, the second-largest margin of victory in track history.

Carl Edwards finished third, Kurt Busch fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth on an overcast, occasionally wet day at the 1.99-mile road course. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson finished ninth, good enough to stay 25 points ahead of Edwards, who is second. Truex’s win was doubly important in that it bumped him up to 10th place in the standings, putting him in line for Chase for the Sprint Cup contention.

Afterward, Truex acknowledged his glee but downplayed the hardship of waiting more than six years for his second NASCAR Sprint victory. The driver said his many close losses and the technical wizardry of his garage team allowed his optimism to remain high through all the lean times.

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