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The Art of Racing - Three teams surging
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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series held its first road course race with the top teams continuing their dominance. Martin Truex Jr. claimed his third victory while Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch finished second and fifth, respectively. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of race is on the schedule, these three teams continue to dominate.

The Toyota Save Mart 300 in Sonoma, Calif., was very uneventful as there was only one caution flag for an on-track incident (A.J. Allmendinger’s blown engine). The only thing that occurred to keep the race interesting was the strategy used by Truex to win the race. Giving up stage points, Truex pitted near the end of Stage 1 so he could be in, or near, the lead at the start of Stage 2. He led most of the second stage until Harvick passed him near the end of the stage.

The final stage began with Harvick leading the first 21 laps. As the stage neared the 20-lap completed mark, Cole Pearn – Truex’s crew chief - began talking about pitting the car. But Pearn, by design, called off the pit stop at the last second, and Truex picked up the lead, which he surrendered on Lap 81 when he pitted for the only time during the final stage.

With fresher tires, Truex quickly ran down the leader, Harvick. Continuing to pull away, Harvick pitted once more for fresher tires, but had to hope for a caution in order to close the gap behind Truex. The yellow flag never flew and Truex beat Harvick to the finish by more than 10 seconds.

 “All you’re doing is begging, hoping the caution doesn’t come out,” Truex said of the end of the race. “Then you’d have to pit and you don’t know what could happen.”

“We knew we were going to do one stop - that was kind of our plan,” Pearn acknowledged. “We just really needed them to pit earlier for it to work out. It was a bit of a gamble, but obviously, it paid off.”

The victory was Truex’s second at Sonoma and 18th of his career. With his first win coming in 2013, Truex’s triumph also broke a streak of nine straight different winners at the 1.99-mile road course.

With only 10 races left before the playoffs, there are still only six different winners: Harvick, Busch, Truex, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon. The point race is becoming more important each week.

Alex Bowman has moved ahead of Ricky Stenhouse for the last spot for the playoffs. The two racers seem to be swapping places week to week. Stenhouse is currently 17 points behind Bowman, so stage points and finishing positions are becoming critical.

The top teams continue to be Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing as we move to Sunday’s race at the Chicagoland Speedway.