Pole-sitter McMurray leads halfway in Sprint Cup race at Sonoma

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Pole-sitter Jamie McMurray is the leader at halfway of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Jeff Gordon, who leads all drivers at Sonoma with five career wins there, is running second, followed by Kevin Harvick in third.

AJ Allmendinger has dominated much of the first half of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, but has fallen back to fourth position.

Allmendinger had led 37 of the first 55 laps in the 110-lap event.

Allmendinger, who is seeking the first career Sprint Cup win for both himself and JTG-Daugherty Racing, led the first 21 laps before yielding the lead to Harvick.

But Allmendinger rallied back to regain the front of the pack spot several laps later.

Michael Waltrip Racing is seeking its third consecutive win at Sonoma, with Clint Bowyer winning there in 2012 and Martin Truex Jr. (now with Furniture Row Racing) doing so in last year’s race.

Bowyer was fifth at halfway, followed by Kurt Busch and rookie Kyle Larson, who won the K&N race on Saturday at Sonoma, was running seventh.

Marcos Ambrose, favored by many to win the race, is running eighth.

Brad Keselowski got spun early when he pulled in front of Kyle Busch, but admitted over his team radio that it was he who made a mistake and had no issue with Busch.

Speaking of Team Penske, Keselowski complained over the team radio early about the setup on his Ford Fusion, prompting crew chief Paul Wolfe to get exasperated and tell his driver that the only way to fix the issue would be to bring the car into the garage.

Casey Mears is having handling issues after the front end of his car was crunched after being hit from behind by Clint Bowyer and pushed into the back of another car.

On Lap 31, Landon Cassill – the only driver to do the weekend double (raced Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Road America and then in Sunday’s Cup event at Sonoma) – lost his motor, bringing out a full course caution.

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Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”