The Latest: Truex holds off Busch to defend Sonoma title

Sports

Daniel Hemric (8) and William Byron (24) drive into “The Carousel” at Sonoma Raceway during a NASCAR Cup Series practice Friday, June 21, 2019 in Sonoma, Calif. The track has put the tricky carousel turn back into its layout for the first time since 1997. (AP Photo/Greg Beacham)

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma (all times local):

Martin Truex Jr. has won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway for the second straight year, comfortably holding off teammate Kyle Busch for his fourth victory of the season.

Truex won for the fourth time in the last eight points-paying races, with the late-blooming 38-year-old driver earning his 23rd career victory. Truex and Jeff Gordon are the only drivers in NASCAR history to win at Sonoma in consecutive years.

The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota teammates finished 1-2 for the seventh time in their careers.

Ryan Blaney was third, with Matt DiBenedetto fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.

Truex and Busch were the class of the final stage in a caution-free race on the hilly road course in wine country. The drivers had little trouble navigating “The Carousel,” the extra turns inserted into the NASCAR layout for the first time since 1997.

Busch didn’t follow Truex into the pits early in the final stage. When Busch finally pitted, Truex reclaimed the lead with 23 laps to go, opening up an 8-second advantage, and then held off a strong push by Busch to win by 1.861 seconds.

Series points leader Joey Logano had battery problems and had to pit with 15 laps to go. He finished 23rd.

Chase Elliott started fourth and ran near the front for much of the day before his engine apparently blew early in the final stage.

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1:34 p.m.

Denny Hamlin won the second stage of the NASCAR Cup Series race after Martin Truex Jr. pitted right before the stage’s end at Sonoma Raceway.

Hamlin didn’t pit, and he beat Brad Keselowski comfortably to the line, with first-stage winner William Byron back up to third. Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch also pitted with Truex.

Hamlin earned his second stage victory of the season. He has won at Daytona and Texas this season, but has never won a Cup Series race at Sonoma.

Truex is the defending champion on the road course’s rolling hills, and he led most of the second stage before sticking to his pit strategy.

During the caution-free second stage, Clint Bowyer had to make an unscheduled pit stop with a loose wheel. Aric Almirola lost position when he skidded off the track. Paul Menard spun in the hairpin turn, but managed to keep going.

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12:53 p.m.

William Byron has led every lap of the NASCAR Cup Series race through the first stage at Sonoma Raceway.

Byron earned his first stage victory while leading the first laps of his career on a road course. He led Denny Hamlin by more than 9.3 seconds at the break, taking advantage of clean air in front of him to dominate the early going.

Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott were running near the front when they decided to pit with two laps left in the stage.

Michael McDowell spun on contact with Kevin Harvick shortly before the stage ended, but he pulled out of it and kept going.

Kurt Busch had early tire trouble after making contact with Clint Bowyer.

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12:21 p.m.

The NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma is underway.

William Byron got past pole-sitter Kyle Larson on the opening lap, putting his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the lead on a road course for the first time in his career.

Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. moved up from eighth to sixth early on.

The pre-race festivities featured multiple tributes to Darrell Waltrip. The Hall of Fame driver is retiring from the Fox Sports broadcast booth after the race.

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10:03 a.m.

Kyle Larson is starting on the pole at his home track when the NASCAR Cup Series returns at Sonoma Raceway.

After a week off, the championship race resumes on the hilly road course in Northern California wine country. The track has another degree of difficulty with the return of “The Carousel,” a difficult three-turn stretch that hasn’t been used for a NASCAR race since 1997.

Defending Cup Series champion and current points leader Joey Logano starts third behind Larson and William Byron.

Kyle Busch starts seventh in search of his fifth victory this season. He’s alongside defending Sonoma champion Martin Truex Jr.

Larson is on the pole for the third straight year in Sonoma, but the Sacramento-area native has never won here.

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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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