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.”

Simon Pagenaud has words with Gabby Chaves after Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Photos: IndyCar
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The rain didn’t stop following the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and neither did the jousting between drivers.

An angry Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud confronted Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves after the race, complaining that Chaves would not let Pagenaud get past him in the closing laps.

Instead of ending up with a hoped-for Top 5, Pagenaud wound up with a ninth-place finish. Chaves, meanwhile, finished 17th, two laps down.

The confrontation turned into a battle of words and profanity between the two drivers, as captured on Twitter by AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver.

Afterward – and after their tempers cooled down somewhat – both Pagenaud and Chaves gave their sides of the confrontation to NBCSN.

Gabby Chaves

First, here’s Pagenaud’s take on things:

“We had a really good race going,” Pagenaud said. “I think we potentially could have been top 5. I was really frustrated with Gabby. He was two laps down and I was stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying to do everything I could to make it happen.

“It’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you want to have everybody on your side when you have a good day. At the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. It’s a real shame.”

When asked what exactly he said to Chaves, Pagenaud demurred.

“Driver’s stuff,” he said with a slight smile. “We’ve all been there. I’ve been in his position. My side, I played it smart. It is what it is.

“I can’t comment for him. You can ask him the question. I’m not going to make a deal about it, it’s just a shame it ruined my race. We’ll come back stronger. It’s Indy soon, so that’ll put a smile on my face.”

NBCSN then caught up with Chaves for his side of the story.

 

“It’s a tough situation, we had to restart (the rain-delayed race) a lap down,” Chaves said. “Our whole strategy depends on trying to get a yellow and holding our position. Some guys think that the track belongs only to them, they’re the only guys on-track.

“Everyone else who was faster at that point – we were only one lap down to the leader, so we’re still on our strategy and don’t know what’s going to happen – as soon as they got right up next to me on the lead lap, I let them go.

“Simon was the only one who couldn’t drive up to me. I understand his frustration, but he’s the one who has to save fuel to make his strategy work, that’s not our fault, right?”

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