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SONOMA — A.J. Allmendinger probably isn't happy with his finish at Sunday's NASCAR Toyota-Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway because it should have been better than it says in the final results.

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver had been running inside the top 10 for the majority of the race and led the most laps — 37 — until a late-race accident on the exit of turn 11 pretty much ended his shot at victory.

Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr. made contact on the exit of the turn, which culminated in Allmendinger spinning on the front stretch and ruining his day. Earnhardt finished in third, while Allmendinger limped to a 37th-place finish.

"I tangled up with the 47 (Allmendinger) somehow. He wheel-hopped my left-front tire and that spun him out," Earnhardt Jr. said.

Allmendinger exited his trailer and left the track without speaking to reporters. He had finished no better than 21st place in the five races before Sunday's.

"We led a lot of laps today and we were good enough to win the thing no doubt," Allmendinger said in a press release. "It's just disappointing the way our day ended and to leave Sonoma with a car that's tore up."

The third-place finish was Earnhardt's first top 10 at Sonoma Raceway in his career. Allmendinger's best career finish at the road course is seventh place.

<b>Menard's best day</b>

Paul Menard leaves Northern California with his best finish at Sonoma, a fifth place that eclipsed his previous best of 14th at the road course.

"We had a good speed all weekend," he said. "Just got to maintain it."

Menard was in 10th place at lap 28 before dropping out of the top 20 at lap 55. He was 12th with 27 laps to go before fighting his was back inside the top 5.

"We ran in the top 10 all day and we made a good call at the end to put tires on," he said. "We drove up from 11th or 12th up to fifth. A good weekend."

Menard is 12th in drivers points after Sunday's race.

<b>Tough day for Truex</b>

Defending race champion Martin Truex Jr.'s up-and-down day resulted in a 15th-place finish, which was much better than it could have been after an early unscheduled pit stop.

Truex came into the pits and changed tires, and radio traffic from his crew chief pointed to a tire possibly going flat. He came out of that pit stop 43rd, and worked his way into the top 10 in the second half of the race.

<b>Steering halts Larson</b>

Kyle Larson's third-place qualifying position made it appear that he might have a good day at Sonoma, especially after his victory in the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series race on Saturday.

He even ran in the top 10 for most of the first half of the race, but power-steering issues doomed the 21-year-old Elk Grove native to 28th place.

<b>Keselowski squawks</b>

Brad Keselowski got spun by Kyle Busch early in Sunday's race, but he wasn't mad at the culprit for turning him around.

Keselowski barked to his crew on the radio that he was about to "get spun out about four more times as bad as we are."

Keselowski started the race in 13th position, dropped back in the back to 38th on lap 70, and battled back to finish 22nd.

<b>Grand Marshal Vida</b>

Former Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants pitcher Vida Blue served as the Grand Marshal for Sunday's race.

Blue said track president Steve Page reached out to him a few weeks ago to see if he'd be interested in participating in the race and Blue agreed.

"I'm not an avid race fan, but I do watch it on Sundays when I'm at home if there isn't a U.S. Open golf tournament on or something," Blue joked.

Blue said he watched racing legend Richard Petty when he was younger and got to meet him on Friday. He's learned over the weekend about racing strategy, including drafting and team work on the track.

"It's pretty interesting, when you get into it,<NO1> to watch how the races take place," he said.

Blue said he has gained a new found respect for drivers after this weekend.

"I've heard people say that these (drivers) aren't athletes," he said. "You've got to be an athlete to sit in that car .<TH>.<TH>. you've got to stay totally focused .<TH>.<TH>. Out here on this track things happen so fast and the cars are moving so fast that you don't have time to relax because you got to stay so focused on what you're doing handling your car as well as watching out for the other guys and gals that are out there."

<b>The grill sergeant</b>

Murphy-Goode Winery grill sergeant Dirk Yeaton had a special assignment at Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

The Army veteran cooked a "guerrilla barbecue" meal for Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 team on Sunday morning. The meal included ribs and sausage prepared with Murphy-Goode wine.

Yeaton grew up and worked in the Northeast for most of his life, but moved to Sonoma County last year to work at the winery.

"If you go on the website and look at the grill sergeant, it describes what I've been working for forever," he said.

<NO1>He was told that he competed with tens of thousands of people to get the position.

"I just think it was meant to be. I think they needed me and I needed them," Yeaton said.

Yeaton teamed up with Operation Homefront to prepare a smoked sausage recipe that will see some proceeds of the sales of either go towards the charity. According to a press release, Eckrich sausages and Murphy Goode have donated almost $1 million combined to the organization.

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