NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. looks to defend Sonoma crown

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Good results have not always been there for Martin Truex Jr. this season, but if there’s any place where he can turn the tide, then surely Sonoma Raceway is it.

The 1.99-mile Northern California road course is the next stop on the Sprint Cup schedule, and it was where Truex snapped a 218-race winless streak last season for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Now with Furniture Row Racing, Truex has only picked up three Top-10s this season. However, it appears he’s been picking up the pace recently with a sixth at Dover and a ninth at Pocono.

That momentum was broken however last Sunday at Michigan when he finished 37th after an early incident forced him to run the remainder of the Quicken Loans 400 with a damaged No. 78 Chevy.

“We just need to start a new streak in Sonoma,” he said recently. “We’ve had way too much bad luck so far, but we will keep plugging away and hope what goes around comes around.”

Truex sees an opportunity at Sonoma to catapult himself into the Chase with a win, noting that the Toyota/Save Mart 350 has been “circled on the schedule.”

But with NASCAR’s collective road-racing acumen at a high point these days, Truex knows he’ll have a tough time trying to defend his Sonoma crown.

Then there’s the course itself, which takes drivers through multiple elevation changes and is considered the more technically challenging of Sprint Cup’s two road courses.

“It’s not an easy course by any means, but if the car’s setup is right then you will have a shot at a victory,” he said. “You have to be able to master all the turns there.

“The toughest turn for me was always Turn 11, but I managed to get a better feel for that turn the past couple of years. That is one hairpin turn where your day could end very quickly.”

Power, Newgarden, Dixon fastest in first of 2 IndyCar practices today at Barber Motorsports Park

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Will Power was fastest in Friday’s first of two IndyCar practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Power covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in 1:07.5987 minutes at 122.488 mph in the 45-minute practice session.

Even though he spun off the course during his session, Phoenix winner Josef Newgarden still managed to be second-fastest (121.919 mph at 1:07.9141 minutes), followed by Scott Dixon (121.296 mph/1:082627), Max Chilton (121.251 mph/1:08.2882) and Ed Jones (121.215 mph/1:09.5692).

 

Sixth through 10th were Simon Pagenaud (121.208 mph/1:08.3122), Jordan King (121.113 mph/1:083661), Graham Rahal (121.059 mph/1:08.3964), St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais (121.029 mph/1:08.4131) and rookie Zach Veach (121.014 mph/1:08.4216).

Here’s the full speed chart:

Incidents:

* Early in the session, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi ran off the track and into the grass, striking a small sign, but was able to get back on-track. However, Rossi was only able to complete 10 laps, relegating him to 20th-fastest in the 23-car field.

* Moments later, it appeared the rear brakes locked up on Newgarden heading into Turn 5, spinning him into the gravel trap. He was able to get going and returned to the pits for service and was back on-track with less than four minutes remaining in the session.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The second practice session of the day will begin at 3:50 p.m. ET. A third practice will take part Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET. The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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