Martin Truex, Jr. defended his 2018 win at Sonoma with another dominating performance. He led nearly two-thirds of the laps and beat second place Kyle Busch by about a second.
Ryan Blaney finished a distant third, followed by Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin to round out the top 5. Hamlin led 4 laps and won Stage 2 while DiBenedetto got his best NASCAR finish by racing in the top 10 most of the race.
The race was caution free aside from the two stage cautions. There were a couple of minor spins during the race but the green flag stayed out. Drivers were relatively patient with each other, which is a bit odd at a road course where tension can easily mount. But that doesn’t mean everyone was happy with each other. I am sure Ryan Blaney wasn’t too happy with Kyle Busch punting him. And with track position and different strategies at play the entire race, the audio replay from Sonoma should be pretty interesting once that is posted.
Pole sitter Kyle Larson finished tenth but never led a lap. That honor went to young William Byron who stared second and led 21 laps on his way to winning Stage 1. Chase Elliott fell victim to a rare engine failure as he was running in third during the final stage. Elliott didn’t have enough to challenge Truex, but he ran up front all day and had speed.
Last week I said that if Jimmie Johnson didn’t do well in this race he should pack it up. Well, he ran in the top 10 for a fair time but finished 12th. I felt a Top 10 was a must for me to consider Johnson a threat to win any race the rest of the year and 12th is just borderline. In 17 races at Chicagoland, he has never won. I really don’t see that changing. And it’s not like he is an ace at Watkins Glen, so another chance to show off his skill goes out the window there too.
While I never say never, I don’t see Johnson winning a single race this season unless they hit on something magical. This has been another season of Chevy struggling and Hendrick is solidly in that camp. Aside from Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman, Hendrick has rarely shown speed. Byron has a few poles but has backed that up with only 4 Top 10 runs. Johnson has a couple more but has led only 68 laps, the least of all the Hendrick teams. And without speed or a win, Johnson is likely to miss the playoffs. He is battling Ryan Newman and Erik Jones for the final spot right now and Jones may be the biggest threat. But Newman would wreck his own mother to get that final playoff position.
All in all a good road race but Truex did stink up the joint a little and the crowd was pretty sparse. So let’s give the race a B-.
Hope you enjoy the race at Chicago!