MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martin Truex Jr. admits to being surprised by his success at Martinsville Speedway.
Truex won an exciting lap duel for the lead with teammate Denny Hamlin in the rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday night, winning for the third time in the last four stops at the 0.526-mile oval, the oldest and the shortest. in the series.
“This place has become a playground for us, I guess,” Truex said on Victory Lane. “We didn’t have the best car all day, but we kept working on it and never gave it up.”
Truex, who repeatedly pushed Hamlin into the corners and tried to get onto the straights without success, finally made the pass with 15 laps to go, ducking under Hamlin as he exited the second turn. He sailed to victory without another challenge as Hamlin and Chase Elliott battled the rest of the way for second.
Truex became the first repeat winner in NASCAR’s main series this season.
The race was showered after 42 laps on Saturday night and was completed as the second part of a doubleheader that began with the end of the rain-delayed Xfinity Series race on Friday night.
Elliott, who won here last fall on his way to winning the series championship, held off Hamlin for second place. Hamlin was third, followed by William Byron and Kyle Larson.
“It was a lot of fun at the end, racing with Denny,” Truex said of his teammate Joe Gibbs Racing. “We ran clean and we were able to get to the top.”
Team Gibbs had all four drivers finish in the top 10 when Christopher Bell took seventh place and Kyle Busch took tenth, leaving team owner Joe Gibbs excited and relieved.
“I was just praying Denny and Martin wouldn’t join in running up front,” Gibbs said.
The result was disappointing not only for Hamlin, who had a dominant car and led 276 laps, but also for Ryan Blaney, who won the first two stages and led 157 laps, but pulled an air pistol from his pits after the final stop. and was sent back to 19 in the field.
Blaney rallied to finish 11th, but before that, he and Hamlin were dominant.
Blaney passed Hamlin for the lead on Lap 75 and achieved victory in 130-lap Stage 1, and Stage 2 played out much the same. Hamlin was fast early in the race, advancing comfortably, but Blaney eventually ran him over to win that stage as well.
Hamlin’s third-place finish was his best seventh top-five race in eight races.
“We had a really fast car for 20 laps or so, and then it would just disappear,” Hamlin said. “We continue to race in the top three every week. Every stage, every final, we are there. We just need to improve a little bit. We are hardly missing it.”
The race featured several drastic changes in luck, perhaps none bigger than Joey Logano’s. He was in danger of being lapped at the end of the first stage, but was played with others mid-race staying on the track to gain position when most of the leaders pitted.
It worked because another yellow flag flew shortly after, allowing him to pit for the new tires most of the other teams already had and stay close to the front the rest of the way.
Logano finished sixth.
The misfortune was the case for Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski and several others due to a major crash down the back straight that involved more than a dozen cars on lap 387. Bowman had made it to second before getting caught up in the disaster that his day ended. and Keselowski, a two-time winner at Martinsville, also had to cancel it a day after the accident.
“It’s just part of the short track deal,” Keselowski said.
The accident started when Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher got together coming out of Turn 2.
Daniel Suarez was also involved, circling the oval to the entrance of Turn 1, got out of his car when it caught fire, and drove away as it burst into flames.