Repave, Poor Qualifying Complicate Truex Jr.’s Quest For Fifth Sonoma Win

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Martin Truex Jr. Still Looking For 1st Win Of 2024Logan Riely - Getty Images

Most race-car drivers appreciate a facility providing an upgraded surface. But when it comes to California’s Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR’s Martin Truex Jr. is a little bummed Speedway Motorsports LLC repaved the hilly,12-turn, 1.99-mile road course this past winter.

“I wish they didn’t. We had something really good here working,” the driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing said before Saturday qualifying for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350. “And certainly last year we did really well with it.”

Truex has won this NASCAR Cup Series event, the 16th of 36th this season, four times (2013,2018, 2019, 2023), most of any active driver, and he has finished in the top five here twice. If he can earn his first victory of the season and his first since last July’s race at New Hampshire to snap his 31-race winless streak, he will tie retired Jeff Gordon for most all-time in Northern California Wine Country.


“It is definitely going to be a lot different than it’s been,” Truex said. For as long as I can remember, you would come to Sonoma and you would think, ‘Worn out track, tire wear.’ The approach is a lot different than it is now. Now it is really going to be pretty much running qualifying laps every lap with the tires that don’t really wear out or fall off much. Totally different approach than we’ve done at Sonoma in the past.”

However, Truex joined Josh Berry and Ross Chastain for a test session here in March, a month after repaving was completed. And Truex said he thought that “went really well. It is still the same course. New challenges, same course. Hopefully we can figure it out and go win No. 5 here.”

As he anticipated his 18th Sonoma start, Truex said, “We’ve won on both configurations of track here. I’ve won in some different race cars here, over the years, different models of cars, different generations of cars. Really, it is just about adapting.

“This could be probably the hardest one to win of all of them, because it is going to come down to track position, and being on the right strategy, having good pit stops,” he said. “We could see a guy gamble on when to pit and catch a caution and win the race, kind of come from nowhere. I think there is going to be more of a chance for an upset or for a guy surprising the field this time around, where before, if your car was really good, you could drive through the field – simple as that. You could pass cars on old tires, and that is going to be a challenge this time around, I feel like.”

But he said, “You never know – a lot can happen here. It is a narrow track, certainly narrower than COTA, and there is potential for guys getting into each other is there, so we will just see how it plays out.”

That elusive fifth win will be even tougher. Truex will roll off 21st Sunday. The closest to the front he started and won in the past was in 2013. That day he started 14th and went on to victory. In his other three wins he started inside the top 10.