Tony Stewart reclaimed the lead from Denny Hamlin on the final turn of the race Sunday and won NASCAR’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
Hamlin had taken the lead from Stewart on Turn 7 of the final lap. But when Hamlin went wide on the 11th and final turn of Sonoma’s road course, their cars made contact and Stewart slipped past on the inside to claim his first victory of the season. Hamlin hit the wall and couldn’t recover.
The victory virtually assures Stewart a spot in the Chase. Stewart, who is retiring as a Cup driver after this season, missed the first eight races of the season after fracturing a vertebra in a dune buggy accident in California during February. Stewart also needs to be among the top 30 in points to make the Chase and trails by nine points for that spot.
Hamlin finished second with Joey Logano third and pole-winner Carl Edwards fourth.
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“I was looking in the rear-view mirror more than looking out front,” Hamlin said of the final turn. “I just slid up a little in the middle and allowed him to get under me. We weren’t going to drag race from there. I knew he’d put me in the wall.”
Stewart took a pit stop on Lap 86 and was able to take the lead on the next lap when a caution came out for debris on the track. Officially, Stewart led for the final 22 laps.
Three who mattered
Tony Stewart: He’ll be in the Chase in his final season on the Cup circuit.
Denny Hamlin: Thought he had this one but couldn’t make it happen on the final turn.
Joey Logano: Finished third and thought he had a chance to take advantage when he saw Stewart and Hamlin racing so hard in front of him on the final lap.
▪ Clint Bowyer’s day ended early when smoke from an electrical fire behind his car’s dashboard seeped into the cockpit. Bowyer quickly got out of his car, then he had to bend back into the window to put the car into gear to stop it from rolling away. It has been a rough season for Bowyer, who is racing for HScott Motorsports before replacing Tony Stewart in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevy next season. Bowyer hasn’t finished among the top 10 since Talladega, Ala., on May 1.
“Smoke is never good in the cockpit and it stinks,” said Bowyer, who was in obvious discomfort when he got out of the car. “ I couldn’t breathe.”
▪ Dylan Lupton, who graduated from UNC Charlotte last month, finished 35th in his first Cup start. Lupton, who started 38th, is looking for a ride in the Xfinity series.
▪ Wednesday is the day when NASCAR announces its penalties from the previous race. Most of the attention this week likely will be on the Truck Series, however. Sanctions would appear to be certain for drivers John Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher, who got in a brawl/wrestling match during Saturday’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill.
▪ The Sonoma track announced a multiyear co-title sponsorship extension with Toyota on Sunday. Toyota has had its name on the race since 2007.
They said it
“(Victories) are all good. It doesn’t matter where you get it.” – Stewart.
Three tweets from Sunday’s race:
Coke Zero 400
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
When: Saturday, 7:45 p.m.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.