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Martin Truex Jr. fumes after Infineon race

Reporting from Sonoma, Calif. — Martin Truex Jr. left Infineon Raceway fuming at Jeff Gordon, and Gordon said Truex had every right to be angry.

Just past the midpoint of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, Gordon’s Chevrolet bumped into the back of Truex’s Toyota, causing Truex to spin and dropping him several positions into a group of cars that soon were involved in a big crash on a restart.

“We should never have been in that position” so deep in the field, said Truex, who finished 40th in the 43-car field.

Gordon, a record five-time winner at Infineon, apologized and said he would talk to Truex about what happened.

“I feel terrible because Martin races a lot of guys clean out there,” Gordon said. “He had a good run going, and I ruined that for him.”

Foreign front

NASCAR is known for its Southern heritage and good old boy roots, but for a few laps Sunday the race was led by a Swede and an Australian.

Swedish driver Mattias Ekstrom, making his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start, led seven laps and was followed by Australian Marcos Ambrose, who nearly won the race before finishing sixth. Ekstrom finished 21st.

A two-time champion in the European DTM sports car series, Ekstrom was hired to drive Red Bull Racing’s No. 83 Toyota at Infineon for Brian Vickers, who has been sidelined for the season because of a blood-clotting problem.

Casey Mears replaced Vickers for four races but was released last week, and Reed Sorenson will take over the car starting next Sunday in New Hampshire.

Earnhardt’s day

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the first to acknowledge that road racing isn’t his strong suit, and initially it appeared he was in for another long day Sunday.

After qualifying 24th, he dropped as low as 36th by Lap 40 in the 110-lap race.

But the popular NASCAR driver kept digging and ultimately finished 11th in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, which lifted him one spot in the Cup standings to 13th.

That means he’s only one spot away from NASCAR’s Chase playoff, in which the top 12 drivers in points compete for the championship over the final 10 races of the year.

“The car wasn’t that great for me all day,” Earnhardt said. “But we saved the car and really saved the brakes and the sheet metal on the car until the end. It worked out.”

Hamlin’s headaches

It was a day to forget for Denny Hamlin, who came to Sonoma having won a series-high five races this season, including the two races leading up to Sunday’s event.

After starting 12th, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver at one point dropped to 24th. Then the hood on his Toyota, damaged from an earlier incident, snapped back and covered his windshield, forcing Hamlin to slowly drive to the pits so he could have the hood removed.

Finally, Hamlin was involved in the multi-car crash that included Truex, leaving Hamlin with a 34th-place finish.

“Tough day, but it happens,” he said. “All you can do is get back to it next week.”

james.peltz@latimes.com


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