In 2022’s Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. struggled mightily, finishing in 26th position at a track that he had won at three times previously in 2013, 2018 and 2019.
Not only did Truex struggle at Sonoma in 2022, but he also struggled at most tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit that year, failing to qualify for the playoffs and logging four top-five finishes in 36 races.
2023 continues to be a different story for the Mayetta, New Jersey, native.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin qualified in the pole position for Sunday’s race and dominated the first stage of the race, earning a playoff point. Hamlin was unable to hold off his teammate for much longer as Truex passed Hamlin just after the end of the opening stage and never looked back. As Truex took the lead, Hamlin was still in contention with his No. 11 FedEx Toyota. But that was until he made a mistake that ultimately ended his day.
With the damage sustained in his incident, Hamlin was unable to finish the race due to a broken toe-link after a promising start to the day. Truex was able to hold off his former teammate in Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch in the closing laps for his second victory of the season after winning at Dover Motor Speedway on May 1.
Chase Elliott’s rebound
For the first time since the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway this past Memorial Day on May 29, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott was back in action. Due to intentionally wrecking Hamlin two weeks ago, Elliott was suspended for the most recent race at World Wide Technology Raceway on June 4.
Elliott also missed several races at the beginning of the season, putting him in a must-win situation to qualify for the NASCAR Playoffs. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native finished in the fifth position Sunday and is hoping for his strong finish to propel him to a victory in the coming races.
Although Elliott needs a win prior to the opening race of the NASCAR Playoffs at Darlington Raceway on September 3, the 2020 champion is fully capable of winning as he has done so 18 times in his career.
Kyle Busch continuing his impressive season
Beginning his 19th full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Kyle Busch began a new chapter of his career, racing for Richard Childress Racing. After beginning his career with Hendrick Motorsports, Busch went on to spend 15 years at Joe Gibbs Racing from 2008 to 2022.
Busch and Gibbs were unable to agree to terms on a new contract due to a lack of sponsorship, leading the two-time champion to sign with Richard Childress Racing. After winning at Auto Club Speedway in just his second start with RCR on February 26, Busch went just seven races before he was victorious at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23.
Entering Sunday’s race at Sonoma, Busch was coming off a victory at World Wide Technology Raceway last weekend. He continued his impressive season in the No. 8 Chevrolet with a second-place finish, missing out on back-to-back victories by just one position to his former teammate.
If Busch – one of NASCAR’s most accomplished veterans – can continue his maiden season at RCR with the strong results he has had as of late, he could be contending for a championship come November 5 at Phoenix Raceway.
With Father’s Day on June 18, the NASCAR Cup Series will be off this upcoming weekend before its next race at 7 p.m. EST Sunday, June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will air on NBC.