On Sunday at Sonoma Raceway Martin Truex Jr. finally got to roll into victory lane for the second time in his career. It was a long time coming for Truex, whose last win came in June 2007 at Dover International Speedway.
Truex grew up racing at Wall Stadium on the shore of New Jersey in Modifieds, as well as working on his father's clam boats. If you don't remember, winning came quite easy to Truex in the NASCAR Busch Series as it was known at the time. He won back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005. In both years he won six times. He looked like the next best thing.
In 2006 he moved up to the Sprint Cup Series on a full-time basis. He went winless in his rookie season, posting just two top-fives and five top-10s for Dale Earnhardt Inc. But in 2007 he finally got that first win at what he considers to be his home race track of Dover. He grew up just over an hour north of the track in Mayetta, NJ.
Many thought that there would be more wins to follow after his victory at Dover, but that hasn't been the case. He'd come close many times, but just couldn't came through. Especially recently. He came so close at Kansas last season where he dominated, but then lost the lead in the late stages to Denny Hamlin. The same exact scenario played out at Atlanta in September.
But he finally got back to victory lane at the road course of Sonoma. A place that many would never have expected his winless streak to end.
The streak is finally over. The monkey is now gone from Truex's back.
Road Course Racing
Sunday's race definitely wasn't the most exciting race of all time. Truex won by a huge margin over Jeff Gordon, and the end of the race went over 20 laps caution-free.
Many said they were left disappointed in the finish of Sunday's race. Unfortunately, we've grown accustomed to wild races on road courses. Many have said they feel road courses are now better than short tracks because they produce more beating and banging and bumping, as evidenced by the crazy battle for the win at Watkins Glen last season between Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski.
However, that should still be considered the abnormality, not the norm. Road course racing is all about strategy, as evidenced by Sunday's race. Sure, in NASCAR you can usually count on a late-race caution to produce a dramatic finish, but that isn't how road course racing usually plays out. In Formula One, IndyCar, and Sports Car racing, strategy is usually the name of the game. The finishes usually aren't all that close.
We all need to take a step back and stop expecting every road course race to be a barn burner at the end. Once we do that, we can appreciate the crazy races like the 2012 Watkins Glen race even more.
During Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Road America Max Papis was spun out late in the going by Billy Johnson. An unhappy Papis walked up to Johnson on pit road after the race and slapped Johnson on the side of his head. Johnson still had his helmet on though, so most likely no pain was inflicted.
I'm not certain what kind of message a slap sends to another driver. Sure, it let's Johnson know that Papis was not too happy with him. But at the same time it doesn't exactly strike fear in another driver. A slap isn't very intimidating. It's about as intimidating as Danica Patrick's finger point at Regan Smith during the night race at Bristol last season. So scary.
Papis is having fun with it though. He has decided to refer to the slap on Twitter as the "#PapSlap" and is also having T-Shirts made up to commemorate the occasion. It's very similar to what Mike Stefanik did after his infamous post-race interview from the Battle at the Beach in Daytona back in February.
As silly as it all may be, this is much better than drivers just thanking their sponsors and retiring to their motor homes. I'll take any emotion I can get from these drivers. Even if it is just a wimpy slap.