Martin Truex Jr. is finally in victory lane again in the Sprint Cup Series.
Truex ended a 218-race winless drought in NASCAR's premier series after leading 51 of 110 laps and crossing the finish line 8.13 seconds ahead of Jeff Gordon in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. It was the second career win for the 32-year-old Mayetta, N.J. native. His first win in the series came in June 2007 at Dover International Speedway, his home track.
After his win at Dover, Truex had finished in the runner-up spot six times before his victory at Sonoma.
"We've been close a lot, but it feels damn good to finally get one," Truex said.
Truex's winless streak was the second longest in series history. Bill Elliott, the 1988 Cup champion, had been without a victory for 226 races before he ended it in November 2001 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex also became the ninth different winner in the last nine races at this 1.99-mile road course in Northern California.
With the win, Truex moved up three positions to 10th in the point standings. There are 10 races remaining before the Chase for Sprint Cup championship begins in September. Truex made the Chase last year, finishing 11th in points.
"We've had cars really fast all year long, but we've had some tough luck," he said. "That's just part of racing. I'm just really proud of these guys (No. 56 team) for sticking behind me and working hard. They give me race cars like this."
Truex capitalized on fuel strategy by opting not to pit during the final round of stops under caution. That allowed him to take the lead for good with 28 laps to go.
It's the second straight year a driver from Michael Waltrip Racing has won at Sonoma. Clint Bowyer took the checkered flag here in 2012.
"Today was just our day," Truex said. "We've had a lot of days when it wasn't our day. It was our time, and the car was flawless. I was just trying to forget about what was behind me and focus on winning. We're going to get a bunch of them now, I can tell you that much."
Juan Pablo Montoya was running in second until the final lap when he ran out of fuel, allowing Gordon to take the position. Gordon rebounded from a 39th- place finish last week at Michigan after he crashed early in that race.
"This is one of those crazy types of races where pit strategy goes all over the place, and you never know what might happen," Gordon said. "I knew that I could probably never get to the No. 56 (Truex), but boy, I was sure having fun coming up through there."
Montoya ended up finishing 34th, the last car on the lead lap, after he barely managed to coast his car across the finish line.
Carl Edwards finished third, while Kurt Busch took the fourth spot after he bounced back from a pair of pit-road speeding penalties. Busch led 15 laps in the early going. The penalties had dropped him to 38th in the running order.
"I was fast, even on pit road, twice," Busch said. "I messed-up, flat-out. I didn't hit my tachometer right, and I was speeding both times."
Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, who won at Michigan, Jimmie Johnson, the current points leader, and Kevin Harvick completed the top-10. Ambrose passed Jamie McMurray, the pole sitter, on the opening lap and led the first 18 laps before Busch overtook him for the position.
Johnson's lead is now 25 points over Edwards.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran strong for most of the race in hopes of getting his first top-10 finish at Sonoma, but Earnhardt faded in the closing laps and wound up placing 12th.
Danica Patrick, who became the first female to compete in a Sprint Cup race at Sonoma, finished 29th after starting 31st. Patrick spun off course and into the tire barrier in turn 10 after she cut a tire on lap 64.