Martin Truex Jr. breaks short track drought, wins Toyota Owners 400

by Justin Nguyen

In what Fox NASCAR announcers called “the race of his life”, Martin Truex Jr. is finally in Victory Lane at a short track. The 2017 champion scored his first victory with Joe Gibbs Racing after holding off Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer for the Toyota Owners 400 win at Richmond Raceway.

Harvick started on the pole alongside Kurt Busch. At the back were seven drivers — Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suárez, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Matt Tifft, and Joey Gase — who failed pre-race inspection; Elliott, Hamlin, and Tifft also had crewmen ejected after failing twice.

Stages #1 and 2

Harvick led the first 31 laps before Kyle Busch overtook him on the frontstretch. The competition caution came out ten laps later as it had rained earlier in the weekend, allowing teams to make adjustments according to what they experienced on the “fresh” track.

Landon Cassill received the free pass as the first car a lap down; although Corey LaJoie had been lapped by Busch shortly before the yellow flag, Busch eventually let him pass by, a gesture of appreciation as LaJoie had provided go-karts for the Busch family. On Twitter, LaJoie’s Go Fas Racing team quipped they “are now big Kyle Busch fans.”

Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

The green flag waved on lap 47 as Harvick started to drop. Busch faced little opposition as he recorded the stage win ahead of Logano, Truex, Harvick, Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Chris Buescher, Paul Menard, and Suárez. Of the seven who started at the rear, all but Gase were able to reach the top twenty by the end of the stage.

During stops, Gase was penalised for an uncontrolled tyre. Shortly after Stage #2 began, Kyle Larson suffered a tyre rub and began to slip, falling to thirty-first before bringing out the caution for a spin that sent him into the wall.

After Busch sped on pit road, Truex inherited the lead for the restart. On lap 195, with five laps remaining, Logano took the lead to score the stage victory. Truex, Harvick, Keselowski, Bowyer, Suárez, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Buescher, and Menard comprised the top ten.

Stage #3

Between stages, Ty Dillon and David Ragan were slapped with crewman-over-the-wall-too-soon penalties.

On lap 242, Michael McDowell‘s day came to an end when he wrecked in turn one. The race resumed on lap 252 with Truex leading until Keselowski passed him on lap 266. Truex retook the position on lap 293.

As the race crossed the 300-lap mark, green flag pit stops commenced. During their stops, Almirola (speeding), Dillon (crewman over the wall too soon), Suárez (speeding), and Ryan Blaney (commitment line violation) suffered penalties.

Bowyer caught up to Truex as the laps wound down. With 14 laps to go, Logano was behind Bowyer and fighting for second; the former eventually cleared his fellow Ford driver with three laps remaining.

On the final lap, Logano attempted to pass Truex in turn three, but could not complete the move as Truex distanced himself further to take his first win of 2019. It is Truex’s first Monster Energy Cup Series short track win in 81 attempts. Behind the three were Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, and Menard.

Truex’s brother Ryan posted on Twitter:

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