Defending Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway winner Martin Truex Jr. retained his title in a dominating Saturday night performance, leading 174 of 267 laps and sweeping the three stages to win his fourth race of the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series season.
Truex started on the pole alongside last week’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 winner Erik Jones. Kyle Larson, who qualified eighteenth, started at the rear after missing the driver’s meeting.
A slow start on the outside line caused Truex to drop briefly before resurging in turns three and four to maintain the lead. Jones eventually fell to fifth as Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick moved up to second and third, respectively.
Early in the race, Richard Childress Racing team-mates Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman reported vibrations in their cars, prompting the former to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 22. Five laps later, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pitted for a tire rub, but was forced to return for more repairs. On lap 32, green flag stops for the rest of the field began, with Truex hitting pit road on lap 39 to cycle Keselowski into the lead before he did the same a lap later. Kurt Busch, operating on an alternate pit strategy as his car was running strongly despite being on older tires, inherited the lead.
Behind Busch, Truex and Keselowski battled to assume the lead once the pit cycle ended, but the latter was eventually penalized for speeding on pit road, forcing him to head back for a pass-through and fell to thirty-second as a result. As such, Kyle Busch entered the picture; he and Truex eventually passed Busch to end up on the lead lap. Jamie McMurray, who was running second, pitted on lap 46.
By lap 55, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, and Jimmie Johnson had yet to pit. Busch finally did so on lap 62, shuffling the lead to Logano until he did the same two laps later, leading to Bowman and Johnson also sharing time in first. Unlike Bowman, Johnson took just two tires as the pit cycle concluded to place Truex back in the lead. The Hendrick Motorsports duo of Bowman and Johnson fought to remain on the lead lap, with the former triumphant as Johnson remained a lap down.
At the green-checkered flag on lap 80, Truex scored the stage win, ahead of Harvick, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suárez, Larson, Aric Almirola, and Chase Elliott.
Kurt Busch took two tires to win the race off pit road ahead of Truex, with Bowman doing the same to exit the pits in third. Logano stayed out to become the new leader for the start of Stage #2 on lap 88. On older tires, Logano found himself sinking as Busch and Truex passed him. Ten laps later, Truex was back in the lead.
As the race hit the triple-digit mark, Jones began reporting issues with his #20 car, ranging from engine issues to a vibration. On lap 109, Bowman hit the wall in turn four to bring out the first race incident-related caution of the night.
“Blew a RF rotor before we blew the tire. Had a top 15 car,” Bowman’s crew chief Greg Ives tweeted. “Not good enough if we want to compete with the front guys. Everyone is trying hard to make things better.”
Truex and Kyle Busch comprised the front row for the restart on lap 114. After a lap, Blaney passed Busch in a three-wide situation to take second away before Busch attempted to respond. During their duel, Harvick and Logano had their own for fourth. On lap 119, Matt DiBenedetto collided with the wall after suffering from brake problems, but no caution came out as the #32 went to the garage. At the front, Truex’s lead over Busch ballooned to over 1.7 seconds as he scored another stage win. Behind the two were Blaney, Harvick, Larson, Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Logano, Jones, and Paul Menard.
Following a two-tire stop, Keselowski won the race out of the pits to become the new leader ahead of Truex. Stage #3 commenced on lap 166. Six laps into the stage, Larson claimed second from Truex, but lost the spot on lap 180 when his #42 car began experiencing track bar issues, while Jones’ engine woes persisted. Larson’s track bar became stuck, causing the car to become tighter as he lost multiple positions.
On lap 200, Truex passed Keselowski for the lead after the #2 got loose in turn four. Five laps later, J.J. Yeley blew an engine, prompting a caution. As Larson used the ensuing yellow to repair his track bar by applying 14 rounds of wedge, Kurt Busch led the pitting cars as Newman was penalized for having a wedge wrench still in his car as he left his pit box. The green flag waved on lap 214 with Busch leading Truex for nine laps until he was overtaken by Truex. During the racing, a bizarre event occurred in the tri-oval infield when the track sprinklers turned on, but no caution was waved to fix the system.
Busch fell to third as Blaney took second on lap 230, but Truex built a strong advantage over the #12, reaching two seconds by lap 250. Larson rebounded from his track bar troubles to move up to the top ten by passing Menard on lap 257. In the final ten laps, Blaney could not catch Truex as the reigning series champion scored his fourth win of 2018 and nineteenth career victory.
Blaney finished second, his best run of the year, followed by Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jones, Almirola, Larson, and Logano.
“We love coming here,” Truex stated in an on-track interview with NBCSN. “I rode around here on a golf cart today to see all the Auto-Owners [Insurance] people. I was just amazed by all the fans out there at the Midway. They look like everybody’s having a great time.”
“We made it look easy last year, but it certainly wasn’t.”
Matt Kenseth, returning to the #6 in his first race since Michigan International Speedway in June, finished nineteenth. Garrett Smithley, who finished last at the same Michigan race after transmission failure following one lap, recorded his first finish in a Cup race as he ended the night in thirty-sixth. Camping World Truck Series regular Jesse Little, driving the #7 for Premium Motorsports in his Cup debut, finished ahead of Smithley in thirty-fifth.
Next week, the Cup Series heads northeast to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Foxwoods Casino Resort 301. Denny Hamlin, who finished sixteenth in Saturday’s race, is the defending winner.
2018 Quaker State 400 results
|1||1||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row Racing||Toyota||267 (174)||Running|
|2||7||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||267 (1)||Running|
|3||4||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||267 (38)||Running|
|4||5||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||267||Running|
|5||3||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||267||Running|
|6||9||41||Kurt Busch||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||267 (45)||Running|
|7||2||20||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||267||Running|
|8||12||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||267||Running|
|9||18||42||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||267||Running|
|10||19||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||267 (5)||Running|
|11||6||21||Paul Menard||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||267||Running|
|12||8||14||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||267||Running|
|13||16||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||267||Running|
|14||27||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||267 (3)||Running|
|15||11||19||Daniel Suárez||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||267||Running|
|16||36||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||267||Running|
|17||22||1||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||267||Running|
|18||24||38||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||267||Running|
|19||17||6||Matt Kenseth||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||267||Running|
|20||21||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||267||Running|
|21||10||31||Ryan Newman||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||267||Running|
|22||13||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||266||Running|
|23||20||37||Chris Buescher||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||266||Running|
|24||23||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||266||Running|
|25||29||95||Kasey Kahne||Leavine Family Racing||Chevrolet||266||Running|
|26||14||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||266||Running|
|27||25||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||264||Running|
|28||30||15||Ross Chastain||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet||263||Running|
|29||28||13||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing||Chevrolet||263||Running|
|30||26||47||A.J. Allmendinger||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||262||Running|
|31||31||72||Corey LaJoie||TriStar Motorsports||Chevrolet||260||Running|
|32||34||51||B.J. McLeod||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||256||Running|
|33||33||00||Landon Cassill||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||256||Running|
|34||39||66||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||254||Running|
|35||38||7||Jesse Little||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet||253||Running|
|36||35||99||Garrett Smithley||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||251||Running|
|37||37||32||Matt DiBenedetto||Go Fas Racing||Ford||200||Vibration|
|38||32||23||J.J. Yeley||BK Racing||Toyota||199||Engine|
|39||15||88||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||108 (1)||Crash|