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.”

Christopher Bell survives caution-filled Chili Bowl Prelim

TeeJay Crawford
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Christopher Bell survived the most caution-filled Feature of the week to win Thursday’s preliminary night at the 33rd Annual Chili Bowl. His ability to hold the lead on restarts helped lock Bell into his seventh Saturday A-Feature since 2013.

“I pretty much suck on restarts. I do better when I get into a rhythm,” said Christopher Bell on twitter.

Bell started the feature in third place behind Danny Stratton and Jerry Coons Jr. He took the lead on the first official lap of the race, but not until after two Lap 1 cautions.

The Oklahoma native held the lead through the remaining 24 laps and eight cautions until being challenged by Shane Golobic and CJ Leary on the final laps. Golobic briefly made it past him though Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap. Bell regained control in 1 and 2 to claim the checkers.

“It was a lot busier than what I wanted them to be. Shane definitely made a race out of it and I hope the last four laps were a good show. It was a lot of fun … well it was fun because I won but if I hadn’t won it wouldn’t have been much fun,” Bell said regarding the final laps.

Golobic earned the second transfer into Saturday’s A-Main after starting to the outside of Bell.

Leary completed the podium with the pole sitter Stratton finished fourth.

Josh Most battled through the B after a hard crash in his heat. He rebounded to transfer to the A and drove from 22nd to fifth.

With the throng of cautions at the start and finish of the race, the goal quickly became survival. Only 15 of 24 entries completed the full feature. Notable DNF’s included Ryan Bernal who started fifth, Coons, who started on the front row and Thomas Meseraull in 15th.

NASCAR’s Justin Allgaier finished 13th and will have a long day ahead of him on Saturday.

Friday Jan. 18 will be the final Qualifying night for the 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

Thursday’s Results

1. Christopher Bell
2. Shane Golobic
3. CJ Leary
4. Danny Stratton
5. Josh Most
6. Austin Brown
7. Tracy Hines
8. Casey Shuman
9. Kyle Cummins
10. Andrew Felker
11. Austin O’Dell
12. Seth Carlson
13. Justin Allgaier
14. Chase Johnson
15. Johnny Herrera
16. Ryan Bernal
17. Jerry Coons Jr.
18. Matt Sherrell
19. Thomas Meseraull
20. Jake Morgan
21. Andrew Deal
22. Kevin Bayer
23. Kaleb Currie
24. Joe B. Miller