5 Lessons Learned: Sonoma Proves ‘Rowdy’ Is Really Back

At Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California on June 28, 2015. CIA Stock Photo
At Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California on June 28, 2015. CIA Stock Photo

By Jared Turner

Road Rage Is Real

David Ragan and Martin Truex Jr. collided early on at Sonoma, resulting in Truex wrecking and suffering heavy damage to his car that required an extended stay behind the wall. Afterward, the two men offered up much different versions of what exactly transpired on the track. “I got into the 55’s door a little bit in Turn 7, and I guess he didn’t like it and he figured he would just dump me, so he’s probably got one coming,” Truex said of Ragan. Here’s Ragan’s take: “He just flat-out door-slammed me and just ran me completely off the racetrack. Martin just made a mistake and he paid the price for it.”

The 48 Team Can Get It Wrong

Jimmie Johnson was on cruise control out front and seemingly headed toward his fifth win of 2015 when the caution flag flew for Casey Mears with 10 laps to go at Sonoma. Under the yellow, Johnson’s Chad Knaus-led team opted to leave the No. 48 on the track, a big gamble considering that all but four others opted to come down pit road for fresh tires. When the race resumed, Johnson could only hold the lead for two laps before being overtaken by those on fresh rubber. He finished sixth but defended the decision – which was clearly in error – to stay out when others came in.

‘Rowdy’ Is Really Back

With his win at Sonoma, Kyle Busch has not locked up a berth in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup since he still must climb into the top 30 in points by the time the regular season concludes at Richmond International Raceway in September. But even if Busch ultimately fails to make the Chase, his impressive performance on the super-challenging, 10-turn road course in Northern California’s Wine Country proved once and for all that he is his old self again after missing the first three months of the season recovering from extensive injuries suffered in the XFINITY Series opener at Daytona in February.

‘Smoke’ Can’t Catch A Break

For the first time in a long time, Tony Stewart found himself in  position to leave a racetrack with a top-five finish, entering the late stages of Sunday’s race at Sonoma. But, in a fashion typical of his woeful season, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead of finishing in the top five, Stewart had to settle for 12th after an extremely slow pit stop under the race’s final caution with 10 laps to go dropped him all the way to 16th in the running order. The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion promptly scolded his team over the in-car radio for the costly stop, but the damage had already been done for the man nicknamed “Smoke.”

Sonoma Loves Driver No. 24

Although Sunday’s race didn’t turn out as Jeff Gordon had hoped – he finished 16th after spending much of the afternoon with an ill-handling race car – the Vallejo, California native who grew up just a few minutes from Sonoma Raceway was touched to see the various tributes done throughout the weekend in recognition of his final start at his home track in Northern California’s Wine Country. Among the tributes were a No. 24 painted in the sky and a custom-painted, 18-liter wine bottle presented to Gordon on Friday by track president Steve Page. “Coming into the day seeing all the 24 flags, driver introductions was kind of overwhelming and it was cool,” Gordon said.