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Martin Truex Jr. wins Cup playoff race at Richmond

Martin Truex Jr. feels "lucky" to win at Richmond Raceway and advance to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs after an early trip down pit road.

Martin Truex Jr. returned to victory lane for the first time since Mother’s Day, winning Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway.

The victory - his fourth of the year and 31st of his career - sends Truex to the next round. He joins Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who won last weekend at Darlington, and Kyle Larson, who advances via points.

MORE: Race results, playoff standings

MORE: What drivers said after the race

Truex won after being penalized for beating the leader across the starting line at the beginning of the race.

“That was frustrating, I’m not going to lie, but I knew we had a good enough car to overcome it,” Truex told NBCSN’s Marty Snider.
“Just one of those things. You’ve got to put it out of your mind and you’ve got to go race, and we knew there was a lot on the line tonight. Very happy to get to do this and to go to Bristol without any worries next week is always fun.”

The first round ends next weekend at Bristol.
Truex, who led 80 laps, gave Joe Gibbs Racing its eighth victory in the last 12 races at Richmond Raceway. Had Kyle Busch not been called for a late pit road speeding penalty, JGR likely would have had a 1-2-3-4 finish.

Hamlin, who led a race-high 197 laps, finished second. Christopher Bell was next, giving JGR the top three spots. Chase Elliott overcame a slow pit stop before halfway to finish fourth. Joey Logano placed fifth.

Kyle Busch led 39 laps and ran toward the front most of the race until he was caught speeding on pit road with 55 laps left. He finished ninth.

Elliott’s race turned on a pit stop at Lap 181. As he entered his pit stall, Ross Chastain exited the pit stall behind Elliott. Chastain’s car clipped Elliott in the left rear. Elliott had to correct his car as he entered his stall.

HIs crew began work on the No. 9 car, but Elliott thought he was outside his stall and backed up, knocking the car off the jack. That broke the jack, leading to a 36-second pit stop that cost him the chance for points in the second stage. He finished the stage as the first car a lap down and got his lap back at the end of the stage. Elliott returned to the top 10 at Lap 263.

Kurt Busch is on the cutline heading into next weekend’s cutoff race at Bristol. Alex Bowman is tied with Kurt Busch. Bowman is below the cutline because Kurt Busch owns the tiebreaker with the best finish in this round between them.

Also outside the cutline is Tyler Reddick (-5), William Byron (-18) and Michael McDowell (-38).

STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

STAGE 2 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Denny Hamlin finished second in both Richmond races this season. ... Christopher Bell, who was third, placed in the top four in both Richmond races this year. ... Ryan Blaney placed 10th for his first career top-10 result in a Cup race at Richmond.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kurt Busch finished last in the 37-car field after a left rear tire went down and he crashed on lap 41. ... Michael McDowell had three penalties for speeding on pit road and finished 28th.

NOTABLE: Martin Truex Jr. has won three of the last five Cup races at Richmond.

NEXT: The opening round of the playoffs end Sept. 18 at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)