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Martin Truex Jr. snaps 218-race losing streak PDF Print E-mail
Monday, June 24, 2013 12:06 AM

Associated Press

 

SONOMA, Calif. — The post-race party was a blur after Martin Truex Jr.’s first win in 2007. The celebratory cool-down lap, the burnouts, the drive to Victory Lane all happened so fast.

So he planned to savor every minute of his next win.

He just didn’t think it would take six years.

Truex snapped a 218-race winless streak Sunday with an easy victory on the road course at Sonoma Raceway. It was only the second win of Truex’s career but it put Michael Waltrip Racing in Victory Lane for the second year in a row after Clint Bowyer won here last season.

Overwhelmed with emotion as he crossed the finish line, Truex made the celebration count.

“I was a freaking mess. It was terrible,” he said. “I had to stop and start doing donuts because I couldn’t think about what I was doing. I tried to key the radio once and I couldn’t even talk. So I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to do some donuts and wave to the fans.’ But after I stopped the first time and did that, I calmed down a little bit and I just wanted to make sure I took my time coming back because I remember at Dover it all happens way too fast. You never know when you’re going to get that opportunity again.”

Truex blew out his rear tires, tried to wave to every single fan he saw and took a slow drive around the picturesque road course on his way to Victory Lane, where the MWR crew was waiting to drink from the winner’s enormous wine glass.

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.

Truex even admitted he wasn’t pleased with his car following Friday’s practices but that all changed Sunday.

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. 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 (at)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.

Bowyer wound up fifth in a strong day for the MWR Toyotas.

Kasey Kahne was sixth and followed by Marcos Ambrose, who was extremely disappointed he didn’t win a race in which he was heavily favored.

Greg Biffle was eighth and followed by Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick in the top 10.

The race got off to an inauspicious start before it even began with a pit road accident, a mechanical issue for Jacques Villeneuve and an oil-line failure for Bobby Labonte.

The accident occurred as the cars were headed onto the track and David Reutimann stopped his car on pit road. Alex Kennedy stopped behind Reutimann and Paulie Harraka slammed into the back of Kennedy.

The damage wasn’t significant enough to prevent Harraka from making his Sprint Cup Series debut. But it was a short-lived race for the first driver to advance from NASCAR’s diversity program into a Cup race — Harraka spun and crashed his car six laps later.

Meanwhile, a parts failure caused Labonte to dump oil all over pit road before the race and he was forced to take his car to the garage for a quick repair. Labonte made it onto the track for the green flag but his engine failed on the first lap.

Villeneuve had an issue shifting his gears and had to stay on pit road for a quick repair before trying to catch up to the field at the start of the race. He made it but the problem wasn’t completely corrected and he was back on pit road after 19 laps for more repairs.

Busch had back-to-back speeding penalties in yet another race that slipped away. He led 15 laps, lost the lead to former teammate Brad Keselowski, then was flagged for speeding when he went in for a scheduled pit stop. He had to return to pit road for a stop-and-go penalty and was flagged for speeding again.

It dropped Busch to 38th in the running order, from where he had to climb back to steal his strong finish.

His brother also had his share of problems. Kyle Busch was spun early in the race by Montoya to lose a ton of track position, then gave up everything he made up when he was caught speeding on pit road. He also spun at least two more times during the race.

Danica Patrick, thought to be a contender based on her strong runs in Nationwide Series road races, struggled all weekend to find speed and was done in by a flat rear tire just past the halfway point. The tire issue caused her to spin into a barrier and make multiple pit stops for repairs.

Pole-sitter Jamie McMurray never even led a lap under green as he was passed at the start by Ambrose and his race took a big hit when he later ran off course with a tire problem and lost a lap.

Hinchcliffe wins IndyCar Series race in Iowa

NEWTON, Iowa — 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 the 250 laps. He became the first 3-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.

Now the next step for Hinchcliffe is consistency.

Despite earning his first three career wins this season, Hinchcliffe is 66 points behind series leader Helio Castroneves because of five finishes of 15th or lower.

Series leader Helio Castroneves was eighth. His lead over Hunter-Reay was cut to nine points — the exact number Castroneves earned Saturday by winning the pole through heat qualifying races.

It was clear from the opening lap that nobody had a better car than the No. 27 of Hinchcliffe.

He immediately grabbed control of the race from Will Power, who counts just one oval among his 18 series victories. Power fell behind by as much as a lap midway through the race and finished 17th.

Hinchcliffe also held off a furious challenge from Rahal off a restart about 90 laps from the finish. Though Rahal technically took the lead for a lap, Hinchcliffe hung on to the low groove, running side-by-side with Rahal, before bursting clear.

The series next runs at Pocono Raceway but not before a much-needed break. IndyCar will take next weekend off, its first true break since late April, before returning to Pocono on July 7, ending a 23-year hiatus from that track.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles says the series expects to race at the Iowa Speedway in 2014 and is hopeful the sides can soon agree on a multi-year contract.

Miles’s addressed the topic Sunday in response to a comment from Rahal on Saturday.

Rahal referenced rumors he had heard indicating that IndyCar wouldn’t return to Iowa next season.

Miles did say that the Iowa race could possibly be shifted from its traditional late June date. But he reiterated that the series has no plans to abandon Iowa after seven years.

Miles added Iowa is a “cornerstone” of the IndyCar schedule.

Audi wins Le Mans race marred by driver’s death

LE MANS, France — Audi has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the fourth straight year in an endurance race overshadowed by the death of Danish driver Allan Simonsen at the start.

Simonsen was the first driver fatality at Le Mans since 1997.

Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loic Duval steered Audi No. 2 to victory on Sunday, one lap ahead of Toyota No. 8 driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin.

It was Duval’s first victory at the world’s most famous endurance race but the third for McNish and the ninth for Kristensen, who extended his record for most titles by a driver.

Audi earned its 12th title at Le Mans, four shy of Porsche’s record.

 

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