For the 28th time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series made its way to the beautiful Sonoma Raceway near Napa this past weekend. In what was an exciting 110 lap race, the veteran 3-time Series Champion Tony Stewart broke an 84 race winless streak and took one step closer to making the chase for the championship.
Stewart, driving his Code 3 Associate/Mobil 1 Chevrolet started the race in the tenth spot. As the race progressed Stewart’s car was not where he needed it to be and he fell back to the 17th position for a majority of the race. As the laps wore on caution flags helped Stewart to find his way to the front of the field. By the end of the race Stewart led 22 of the 110 laps. On the last lap of the race former teammate Denny Hamlin, in his Fed Ex Toyota Camry, got to the rear bumper of Stewart’s car. As the two battled around the road course Stewart wheel hopped into turn 7 allowing Hamlin to make a move. Hamlin used his bumper to slide Stewart out of the way and took the lead. Stewart made a quick recovery and stayed within range for a last turn pass if there was an opening. Hamlin entered the final turn and over shot the turn just enough to let Stewart get on the inside line where Stewart gave Hamlin a bump, sending him sliding into the outer barrier. Stewart completed the pass and took home the 49th victory of his historic career. Hamlin was able to maintain position and brought home second place.
An excited Tony Stewart during the post-race press conference talked about that last turn pass stating “I was probably more surprised than anybody. I couldn’t believe, as good as he (Hamlin) was braking into 11 all day, I couldn’t believe he missed the corner.”
Referring to the final corner bump and pass, he said: “You can’t crack the door open with me on the last corner of the last lap and expect me to not take it. I’ll kick the door in or drive a bulldozer through it to keep it open.”
After the race Hamlin was one of the first drivers to greet Stewart and told him that he was proud of him.
“That meant the world to me,” Stewart said.
Stewart and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint cup series will head east to Daytona Beach, Florida for the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday, July 2.
The NASCAR K&N Series West series arrived at Sonoma Raceway in Wine Country on Saturday, prior to Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Over the course of 64 laps around the 1.990-mile road course there were many on track incidents and lead changes.
Thirty cars made their way to the start of the Chevys Fresh Mex 200. As the green flag fell the #17 MMI racing Chevy of David Mayhew had engine trouble causing a chain reaction which wrecked several cars. Mayhew and Johnny Borneman were knocked out of the race in the incident. After a brief cleanup of the racing surface, racing continued. Ryan Partridge took the lead from pole sitter Chase Elliott (son of Hall of Fame NASCAR driver Bill Elliott). As the race wore on Elliott dropped back to the fourth position but maintained a close proximity to the leaders as they each tackled the hills and turn of the historic road course. With the race winding down Elliott worked his way back to the second position with just 5 laps remaining. Elliott driving his #24 Chevy to the limit, attempted to chase down the #7 Speed Vegas Ford of Noah Gragson. With three to go Gragson made a slight bobble in turn four and his Ford hit the inside rumble strip harder than he had planned, sending him sliding way to the outside of the groove allowing Elliott to drive the nose of his Chevy to the inside of him. As the two drivers made their way to turn 7 Elliott had the preferred inside line and made the pass and took over the lead. Once in the lead Elliott was able to stretch the lead out and capture his first K&N Pro Series West event victory and his first victory on his first attempt tackling the historic road course in Sonoma.
Elliott won the NASCAR Nationwide Championship in 2014 and took over the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after Vallejo’s own Jeff Gordon retired at the end of the 2015 season. Elliott is in his Rookie Season and sits in sixth position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.