Stewart snaps 84-race skid, foils Hamlin in Sonoma thriller – Nascar
Tony Stewart rolled to victory Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, bumping past Denny Hamlin in the final turn to post his first win of the season and keep his hopes alive for a fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in his final championship campaign.
Stewart, who led the final 22 laps in the 110-lap event, guided the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet to a .625-second margin of victory in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. His third Sonoma win came in his final race on the 1.99-mile road course. Stewart’s 49th triumph of his Sprint Cup career snapped an 84-race losing streak dating back to a victory on June 2, 2013 at Dover International Speedway.
“Especially at a place you’re going to for the last time, it means a bunch,” Stewart said. “It’s special, trust me.”
Stewart, who missed the first eight races of his final NASCAR championship campaign because of a severe back injury, now has one component accomplished in his goal to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series playoffs. Over the remaining 10 regular-season races, he’ll need to advance into the top 30 in points, a position he’s just nine points away from in 32nd place.
Stewart sprang into the top spot with a well-timed final pit stop, completed just ahead of the third of the race’s four caution periods. When the yellow flag flew for debris on Lap 86, the majority of the field made their service two laps later, vaulting Stewart to the lead.
Hamlin, who briefly grabbed the lead from Stewart with a fender-clanging pass in Turn 7 on the final lap before sliding high himself in the 11th turn, led a race-high 33 laps and ended up second in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota. Hamlin, who glanced off the Turn 11 retaining wall before pressing to the checkered flag, said Stewart’s contact as he drove past was done fair and square.
“Tony has been ultra-fair to me quite a bit,” said Hamlin. “He’s treated me really well my entire career. It’s not like I gave him one by any means. He gave us an opportunity to move him, we did, and then we got it back. It’s just part of the deal.”
Stewart battled to stay in front the rest of the way, surrendering the lead to Hamlin for only a portion of the final lap.
“I made mistakes the last two laps,” Stewart said. “I had just a little bit too much rear brake for Turn 7, and wheel-hopped it two laps in a row. But, I felt a nudge when I got down there and (Hamlin) knew where it was and he did the right thing doing it there; but if I could get to him, he knew what was coming. He told me he was proud of me. He knows what it means. We were teammates for a long time and we respect each other a lot.”
Joey Logano, the winner at Michigan in the series’ previous race, took third place. Edwards, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in Saturday’s qualifying, led 24 laps and finished fourth in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota. Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five in the first of two road-racing events this season for the Sprint Cup Series.
Road-racing expert AJ Allmendinger led 20 laps in the JTG Daugherty No. 47 Chevrolet and finished 14th. His team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire on a Lap 88 pit stop, knocking him from contention.
Home-state driver Kyle Larson spent much of the day in the top five, but fell from contention with a pit-road speeding penalty in a Lap 70 stop. He finished 12th.
Notes: Clint Bowyer, a winner at Sonoma in 2012, was sidelined after completing just five laps by an electrical issue that filled the cockpit of his No. 15 Chevrolet with smoke. “Smoke is never good in the cockpit and it stinks. Hell, I couldn’t breathe,” said Bowyer, who finished last in the 40-car field. … Former NASCAR Next driver Dylan Lupton finished 35th in his Sprint Cup debut, the last driver on the lead lap. … Sunday before the race, Toyota — the race co-sponsor and the track’s official vehicle — announced a three-year extension of its partnership with Sonoma Raceway. The deal continues a sponsorship that has been in place since 2007. … The series’ next race is scheduled Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, which will host the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM).
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