The last time Martin Truex Jr. competed in a Toyota at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway he drove his Camry to the track’s vineyard-décor Victory Lane following an impressive Sprint Cup Series win on the 11-turn, 1.99-mile road circuit.
The Furniture Row Racing driver, who returned this season to the Toyota manufacturer camp after a two-year absence, will look for a repeat performance of 2013 in Sunday’s 110-lap Toyota/Save Mart 350.
“I was personally very proud of that Sonoma victory,” said Truex. “Winning on a road course shows that you can do more than just turn left in your race car. I feel confident that our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota will have the power to contend for the win on Sunday. The support from Toyota and our technical alliance with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) have been great assets to our single-car team.”
Truex, who turns 36 on June 29, credits his road course skills to his early start in racing.
“Actually, the first racing I ever did was on road courses in a go-kart,” recalled Truex. “I had to pick it up early. You couldn’t race on ovals in New Jersey until you were 18 so I raced a lot of road courses early and learned what it takes to do well on them.”
Regarding Sonoma, the first thing that Truex wants to avoid is what happened to him last year. He came to Sonoma with 14 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races and feeling confident about having another strong performance.
But what often happens in the bumper-to-bumper racing on road circuits, Truex was taken out and crashed into a tire barrier shortly after a restart. He finished 42nd, his worst result of the 2015 season, which saw him advance all the way to the final four in the Chase playoffs.
“We had a pretty good car in Sonoma last year, but just got punted off the track in the heat of the moment,” recalled Truex. “Things do get dicey on road courses.”
He added, “The first thing that comes to mind about Sonoma is that it’s a long race. As is the case with all other tracks, you have to have a great car and do the right things. What sticks out the most is tire management. At Sonoma, it seems like you can be fast on Friday and Saturday but that does not guarantee that you will race well on Sunday because of how the tires fall off.
“You have to be good on the long runs and it’s hard to gauge that in practice. It’s a line-sensitive track and you need to find a rhythm. My least favorite part of the track is the hairpin turn eleven. The part I like the most is the first section up the hill through turn four.”
Truex’s career record at Sonoma includes, one win, one top-five and two top 10s. His average start is 16.1 and average finish 21.0.