Martin Truex Jr. snapped a 218-race winless streak with an easy victory Sunday on the road course at Sonoma Raceway.
It was just the second win of Truex’s career, first since Dover in 2007. It put Michael Waltrip Racing in Victory Lane for the second year in a row after Clint Bowyer won here last season.
Truex worked his way to the front and used strategy to stay with the leaders. He then pulled away after the final restart and built a healthy lead of more than six seconds over Juan Pablo Montoya, who was running second until he ran out of gas on the final lap.
“I’m ecstatic. But I’m not exactly sure how that happened,” said Truex, who admitted he wasn’t pleased with his car following Friday’s practices. “The car was just phenomenal all day long and once I was near the front and didn’t have to run the car 110 percent, it just would stay with me on the long runs and I was able to drive away from everyone.”
Montoya, who came into the weekend knowing if he didn’t win he would at least have a huge points day, dropped all the way to 34th after having to coast to the finish. He took a shortcut to skip the final turn, drifted to the finish line and parked. He then walked back to the garage, annoyed his Chip Ganassi Racing team never told him to save fuel.
“We’ve got tools to prevent things like that from happening,” Montoya said.
“I don’t know if all the fuel didn’t go,” Montoya said. “This is what we’ve been doing all year. We all work together and we’re all trying to do the best we can. Half the reason we’re 20-something in points — we’re not 20-something in points because we’re not running fast. We’re 20-something in points because we had a lot of mechanical problems and days like this we throw them away.”
Crew chief Chris Heroy was perplexed about the shortage.
“We don’t know what happened — we were on the same strategy as [Truex],” Heroy said through a team spokeswoman. “We’re going to go back to the shop and figure it out.”
Montoya got little sympathy from Kyle Busch, who was spun by Montoya early in the race when Montoya drove too deep into a corner and wheel-hopped over a curb.
“Awww. My heart melts for @jpmontoya who ran out of gas,” Busch tweeted moments after the race.
Jeff Gordon finished second a week after he was wrecked six laps into the race at Michigan, but felt like he might have had a chance to win if he had not already committed to pit seconds before a caution came out early in the race.
“I mean, I really do think we had a shot winning this race. We had a tremendous car,” Gordon said. “I knew we were screwed. There was nothing I could do; I was hard on the brakes, fully committed. I couldn’t turn away from it, I just knew we had to eat it and go on, and that’s what we did.”
Carl Edwards was third, followed by Kurt Busch, who climbed back from a pair of speeding penalties.
“Yeah, we were fast, even on pit road. Twice,” Busch laughed. “I messed-up, flat-out. I didn’t hit my tachometer right and I was speeding both times. It was one of those where I’m like, how does that happen? I just put myself in a position that was poor trying to get too much on pit road.”
Bowyer wound up fifth in a strong day for the MWR Toyotas.
Kasey Kahne was sixth, followed by Marcos Ambrose.
Andretti Autosport has long been the team to beat at Iowa Speedway.
On Sunday, James Hinchcliffe put an exclamation point on Andretti’s dominance there with the best race of his career.
Hinchcliffe cruised to victory in the IndyCar Series race, leading all but 24 of 250 laps. He became the first three-time winner this season and gave Andretti Autosport its fourth consecutive victory at Iowa’s .875-mile oval, the shortest track on the circuit.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe’s teammate, battled back from last place to finish second. He was followed by Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal.
Hinchcliffe took the lead on the opening lap and ceded control only briefly during pit stops. He joined Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Hunter-Reay as Iowa winners for Andretti Autosport since 2010.
But none of those runs was as dominant as the one Hinchcliffe put together this time around.
“I’ve watched guys win races like this on TV, and my whole career I thought ‘I just don’t get it. How do they do that?’ I’ve never been in that position. And now I know. You have to have a hell of a good car. You have to have a hell of a good crew and just hit your marks all afternoon long,” Hinchcliffe said. “Man, it feels good to do it like that.”