SONOMA, Calif.—Martin Truex Jr. was running second as the laps dwindled in Sonoma, and crew chief Cole Pearn didn't think they were as fast as Kevin Harvick.
Pearn told his team to prepare for a pit stop on the 73rd lap and he told Truex over the radio to bring in the car.
It was all trickery.
Harvick's crew chief, Rodney Childers, called in his driver for tires and fuel in anticipation of Truex's stop—but Pearn's driver actually stayed out for seven more laps.
When Truex finally pitted, he got the fresh tires he needed to blow past Harvick for a sweet victory.
“I called him off at the last second," Pearn said with a sly smile. ”As far as he knew, we were pitting.
“I'd like to say we're smart enough to use codes but we're not," he added. "We'd probably mess it up.”
Truex won the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma yesterday because of that clever pit bluff, cruising to his second career victory on the challenging road course.
Truex easily held off Harvick for his second win in three weeks and his third victory of the season in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota.
He led 62 laps and won by a whopping 10.513 seconds.
“The last 10 laps of the race were easy," Truex said. ”A little stressful. I was just hoping for no cautions because I had a big lead.
This place is so tricky and so technical, but when you start to take care of your equipment and have time to think, it's almost harder," he added.
“You can overshoot a corner easily.”
The defending Cup Series champion didn't make a mistake after he waited to pit until the 81st lap—a full eight laps later than Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
With fresh tires, Truex passed Harvick for the lead around the final hairpin turn with 19 laps to go.
“That was all Cole," Truex said. ”I'll do whatever he wants to do. Awesome job by him today. . . .
“Honestly, all you're doing is begging, hoping that the caution doesn't come out and hope the engine stays together.”
Truex's victory in his manufacturer's title race was the 18th of his career.
He earned his second career victory at Sonoma back in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing, making him the only racer to win twice in the past decade at Sonoma.
Cup Series leader Harvick went to the pits shortly after Truex passed him, but never got the caution that would have been necessary for him to catch up.
Clint Bowyer finished third and Chase Elliott was fourth.