While Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer took much of the focus on the weekend, other drivers quietly ran well and finished with fantastic results in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race.
Sonoma Raceway is one of the slowest races on the schedule. Aside from the short tracks of Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville, the 1.990-mile road course is the only other track on the schedule that usually sees average speeds in the double digits; Sunday’s race averaged 82.882 mph.
Career-Best at Sonoma for Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott earned his first career top-five finish at a road course race in the Cup Series. Hendrick Motorsports as a whole seemed to shine much stronger this weekend, having three drivers qualify in the top eight spots. That stable also had three of their cars finish in the top 11 positions with Elliott leading the way in fourth.
“It was a lot more fun, this trip out here than it was the last two times,” stated Elliott after comparing his finish on Sunday with his previous trips to the northern California track. “I made a lot of gains, personally, I think, for me at this track. It’s been one of my worst. To come here and have pace on Friday and qualify good on Saturday, and to have pace today, it was just a lot more fun. We had a fast Chevrolet all three days.”
“Fortunately, I had a good enough car to drive forward and get back in the top five.”
Erik Jones Transfers K&N Race Into Cup Performance
Five drivers in Sunday’s field also raced un Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West race won by Will Rodgers. Jones finished sixth in Saturday’s race, which seemed to translate over into the following day’s event. He finished 25th last year, one lap down. However, he was the highest finishing double duty racer with a seventh place overall finish and he led one lap.
“She was a little beat up but man we had fun,” Jones shared on Twitter. He also posted a picture of his blistered right hand, saying that he needed to “work on a little cushion for my hand on the shifter for the next road course.”
Matt DiBenedetto Fights the Heat to Finish 17th
After reportedly not having a functioning A/C unit in his car, Matt DiBenedetto drove his No. 32 Hartford Gold Group Ford Fusion to a 17th place finish. On the final restart to begin the final stage, DiBenedetto was as far back as 35th place.
“We drove our way through the field,” DiBenedetto shared after clearly being exhausted from the demanding road course. “We earned this one. So proud of my team. I had one fast Ford with a really good Roush Yates engine to accelerate.”