‘Martin’s Ville’ again: Truex Jr. earns second win of season
Martin Truex Jr. is the first NASCAR Cup Series driver with multiple wins this season.
Truex Jr. passed Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin for the lead with 16 laps to go and went on to win Sunday night at Martinsville Speedway. He has now won three of the last four Cup races at the half-mile short track.
The race began Saturday night, but was stopped after 42 laps due to rain. It resumed shortly after 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.
“We never could quite get (the car) the way that we wanted it, then it started getting dark and she came to life,” Truex told Fox Sports after the race. "...It was a lot fun racing at the end there with Denny. We raced clean and we were able to come out on top.
“It’s always difficult (racing a teammate). We try to race hard, race clean. He was making it difficult on me. I was getting loose coming off the corners and his car got tight. We had opposite things going on and it made it difficult to pass.
“But we played nice. ‘Coach’ (Joe Gibbs) will be happy. It’ll be a cordial meeting tomorrow (laughs).”
Hamlin, who led a race-high 276 laps, appeared poised to battle Ryan Blaney for the win. But on the final pit stops under caution with 47 laps to go, Blaney was penalized after running over his air hose and taking it outside his pit box. He only partially recovered to finish 11th.
Truex beat Hamlin out of pit road to take the lead, but Hamlin regained it immediately after the restart with 42 laps to go. As the run progressed, though, Truex reeled Hamlin in and eventually made the winning pass.
“That’s just the cards we’re dealt,” Hamlin said to Fox Sports. “We had a really good short-run car, but we just did not have a good long-run car.
“We saved a set of tires and had the tire advantage, but we just couldn’t get our car to really turn in the long run. That was the bugaboo, I guess you could say.”
Reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott would also pass Hamlin to claim second place. William Byron and Kyle Larson finished fourth and fifth respectively, giving Hendrick Motorsports three drivers inside the top five.
Sunday’s action included a red flag period of over 20 minutes for a Lap 386 crash that involved a dozen cars.
The wreck was set off by Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher. After Busch made initial contact with Buescher while trying to pass him in Turn 1, the two clashed again off Turn 2 and went spinning - leaving nowhere for drivers behind them to go.
The incident eliminated Brad Keselowski, Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez among others.
“There was nowhere I could go,” Suarez told Fox Sports after watching his car burn on the front-stretch. “I slammed on the brakes to try and slow down, but it was a parking lot in there. I couldn’t do anything about it.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Blaney
STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Larson’s fifth-place finish was only his second top-five finish in 13 career Cup starts at Martinsville ... Kyle Busch and Buescher recovered from their involvement in the Lap 386 crash to salvage 10th and 13th respectively ... Austin Dillon also rallied from a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his box during Lap 291 stops and finished 14th.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Alex Bowman was running second at the Lap 356 restart, but had to pit under green just twelve laps later for a loose right-front wheel. He was then taken out in the Lap 386 crash. ... Corey LaJoie was looking at a potential top-10 finish until he suffered terminal damage after contact with Tyler Reddick on pit road at Lap 373.
NOTABLE: Truex has now won five of the last 11 Cup short track races. He began his Cup career winless in his first 80 short track races.
NEXT: The series returns to action Sunday, April 18 at Richmond Raceway (3 p.m. ET, FOX).