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.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.