June 24, 2021

by a NASCAR fanatic - not affiliated with NASCAR

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) The Latest on the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma (all times local):

Martin Truex Jr. has won the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma, using a smart pit strategy to cruise to his second career victory on the challenging road course.

Truex easily held off Kevin Harvick for his second win in three weeks and his third victory of the season in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota. The defending Cup Series champion waited to pit until the 81st lap, giving him fresher tires down the stretch and allowing him to pass Harvick for the lead around the final hairpin turn with 20 laps to go.

Truex’s victory in his manufacturer’s title race was the 18th of his career. He earned his second career victory at Sonoma in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing, making him the only racer to win twice in the past decade at Sonoma.

Harvick went to the pits shortly after Truex passed him, but never got the caution that would have been necessary for him to catch up.

1:40 p.m.

Denny Hamlin has won the second stage of the NASCAR Cup Series in Sonoma as the top teams adjusted their strategies for the big finish.

Hamlin stayed out while Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and the fastest cars hit the pits shortly before they closed. Truex and Harvick both have led laps in the first two stages.

Harvick is the defending Sonoma champion, and Truex won here in 2013. Kyle Busch, the 2015 champ, is in fifth behind 2012 Sonoma champion Clint Bowyer and 2011 winner Kurt Busch.

1:15 p.m.

A.J. Allmendinger won the first stage of the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma but was out of the race moments later.

Allmendinger apparently missed a shift and blew his engine on the 34th lap, forcing him to a stop on the road course. He had taken the lead shortly before the end of the first stage when Martin Truex Jr. pitted.

The early end was particularly painful for Allmendinger, who excels on road courses. The Sonoma race was among his best shots at a victory this season in his JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet.

12:40 p.m.

Martin Truex Jr. has jumped to an early lead in the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma.

Truex got in front of Kyle Larson for the lead on the third lap of the road course race in Northern California wine country. Truex won here in 2013 but has a checkered history on the Sonoma course.

The best road course drivers in the NASCAR field were already making early moves. Clint Bowyer qualified in 19th but moved up seven spots in the opening laps.

12:15 p.m.

The NASCAR Cup Series is ready to go racing in wine country.

Northern California’s own Kyle Larson starts from the pole in the road course race in Sonoma. Defending champion Kevin Harvick starts sixth in a race that could be wide-open.

The track is just one of three road courses on the NASCAR schedule, and the 11 turns present a tough challenge for drivers used to going solely in an oval.

Sonoma is unpredictable, with nine different winners over the last nine years and no back-to-back winners since 2000.

More AP auto racing: www.racing.ap.org