Martin Truex Jr. earns first career Cup short track win in Richmond
Martin Truex Jr.'s 20th NASCAR Cup career win in Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway was unlike any other he’s ever experienced.
After 80 prior winless starts and finishes at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond, Truex finally earned his first career Cup win on a short-track (tracks less than one-mile in length).
It also is Truex’s first win since joining Joe Gibbs Racing this season.
Truex led 186 of the race’s 400 laps, holding off late-race charges by runner-up Joey Logano and third-place finisher Clint Bowyer to take the checkered flag.
In doing so, Truex also became part of history: never in the sport’s modern era (1972-present) has only two organizations – Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske – won each of the first nine races of the season. JGR has won six races (three by Kyle Busch, two by Denny Hamlin and one by Truex), and Team Penske has won three (two by Brad Keselowski and one by Joey Logano).
“The car wasn’t doing anything I wanted it to do,” Truex told Fox Sports. “We got real tight on that last run. So being out front was really the key and just trying all I could do not to screw up and hold those guys off. It was definitely really, really difficult.
“It’s been an up-and-down start to the year but I feel like we’ve got a great team and hopefully we can continue to do this.”
Truex beat Logano by .15 of a second.
“We ran out of time there,” Logano told Fox Sports. “I thought maybe I could get to the outside and roll momentum. My only move was to go up, started to get there and he slid up and I got tight and couldn’t turn underneath him.
“It was a fun race. Gosh, three weeks in a row I felt we had a car that could win the race and we haven’t won. That’s a little frustrating, but when you’re frustrated with second, that’s a good sign about where your team’s at. A couple little things kept us from winning, but overall, I felt like we had a great car.”
Bowyer slightly skimmed the wall late, which allowed Logano to ultimately pass him and keep Bowyer from catching Truex.
Kevin Harvick finished fourth, followed by Hamlin.
Sixth through 10th were Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch
STAGE 2 WINNER: Joey Logano
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Clint Bowyer gave Truex all he could handle late, but couldn’t keep Logano from passing him for second-place. … Kyle Busch finished eighth, his ninth straight top-10 finish of the season. … Austin Dillon earned his best finish of the season.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Larson’s tough season continued. He hit the wall on Lap 128, ending his night. “I hate the start to the season I’ve had,” Larson told Fox Sports. “Hopefully this break (Easter off-weekend) comes at a good time and we come back with some better luck.” … Michael McDowell made an early exit after being involved in a single-car crash on Lap 240.
NOTABLE: Erik Jones, who originally qualified on the outside of the front row, was among eight drivers that failed pre-race inspections and had to start at the back of the field. He finished 14th. … Only one Chevrolet finished in the top 10 (Austin Dillon). Six Fords and three Toyotas also finished in the top 10.
WHAT’S NEXT: All three of NASCAR’s major series are off for the Easter weekend. The next Cup race is the Geico 500 on Sunday, April 28, at Talladega, the first superspeedway race in more than 30 years where cars will not have restrictor plates on them.