Martin Truex Jr. was 0-for-30 in NASCAR Cup Series races at Phoenix Raceway entering Sunday’s Instacart 500. That finally changed when he took the lead with 25 laps remaining to score his first win at the track and first of the season.
Las Vegas runner-up Brad Keselowski started on the pole. Said race’s winner Kyle Larson was to join him on the front row but failed pre-race inspection and was sent to the rear, as were his Hendrick Motorsports team-mates Chase Elliott and William Byron. Cody Ware suffered the fate for the same reason, while Quin Houff and Garrett Smithley dropped back for unapproved adjustments and a driver change, respectively; Smithley replaced J.J. Yeley in Rick Ware Racing‘s #53.
Keselowski led the first three laps before Denny Hamlin took the lead. The two drivers’ organisations Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing quickly made their presence known as the seven combined drivers occupied the top spots by lap 12. Although some fell back like Truex after brushing the wall, the JGR/Penske drivers remained in the top ten when the competition caution came out on lap 30.
Of the Hendrick trio that started at the back, Byron was the highest in twentieth at the yellow. Timmy Hill retired from the race on lap 17 after an engine failure. Keselowski was the first off pit road, while Larson jumped to ninth before being penalised for speeding.
The race resumed on lap 37 with Keselowski leading before team-mate Ryan Blaney passed him on lap 44. On lap 47, a stack-up took place when Alex Bowman was blocked by Ross Chastain and clipped by Austin Dillon, causing him to spin into the turn three wall. Dillon received a speeding penalty during the ensuing caution, though he restarted at the rear anyway after making repairs to the nose.
Lap 52 saw the next restart. Elliott’s climb through the field placed him in the top five by lap 62. At the front, it was a Penske 1–2–3 as Blaney won the stage ahead of Joey Logano and Keselowski. Hamlin, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Byron, Larson, and Matt DiBenedetto closed out the top ten.
Logano led Blaney off pit road while Daniel Suárez and Justin Haley were respectively penalised for speeding and removing equipment. Truex had an extended stop to repair damage to his right rear after his contact with the wall.
The stage began on lap 84. On lap 90, Anthony Alfredo was turned by Ware into the turn two wall, resulting in a caution. Ware stayed in the race for the restart before exiting. Alfredo had been multiple laps down after suffering damage early in the race.
“Racing on the lead lap and our day ended by a damaged lapped car,” Ware subsequently tweeted.
“We started the race off and got a little bit of left-rear damage and had a tyre rub, so we were just trying to ride it out to the competition caution, and then got some right-rear damage on that part of the first stage before that competition caution came out,” Alfredo said in a Twitter video. “That affected our handling tremendously, and the guys on pit road did a great job trying to fix the damage so that we could just ride it out and make the most of the day. We knew we were going to have an ill-handling race car so we just had to make the most of it.
“Unfortunately, we got absolutely destroyed racing around thirtieth or thirty-first, I don’t even know where. We were just trying to ride the day out and just see what we could salvage, so it’s a shame to have a killed race car for literally no reason.”
The Penske trio stayed in front for the green flag on lap 99. Elliott broke up the Penske party when he took third from Keselowski two laps later.
The green-flag pit cycle opened on lap 140 with Logano pitting a lap later, shuffling the lead to Larson before he did so. Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie spent time in front before they also pitted; the latter led 12 laps, the most in his national series career and topping his six laps in first at last year’s fall Martinsville race. A pair of Kyles in Busch and Larson suffered penalties on their stops, the former for speeding and the latter for an uncontrolled tyre.
When LaJoie surrendered the lead by pitting on lap 156, Logano reinherited the position. Logano would score his first stage win of the year ahead of Truex, Hamlin, Keselowski, Blaney, Harvick, Byron, Aric Almirola, Elliott, and Christopher Bell.
Elliott, Almirola, and Chastain all sped on pit road between stages.
The final stage commenced on lap 200 as Logano led Hamlin. After 23 laps in front, Truex took the lead. Larson’s tumultuous day took him back into the top five yet again while Wallace entered the top ten on lap 229.
Green-flag stops began on lap 250. Truex relinquished the lead to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on lap 253 and reclaimed it after Stenhouse made his stop a lap later. On lap 262, Tyler Reddick‘s right-front tyre went down and he hit the wall in turn two to produce a caution. Much of the leaders pitted while Wallace stayed out to assume the lead. Chase Briscoe was the next victim of speeding on pit road.
Wallace and Logano led the grid to the lap 267 restart. On older tyres and restarting on the inside, Wallace was quickly swamped by Keselowski on the inside and Logano on his opposite side. Keselowski led for five laps before Logano passed his team-mate on lap 274, while Wallace began a free fall through the running order that sent him out of the top fifteen.
“Why we stayed out: 7 laps on tires, newest of anyone,” Wallace’s crew chief Mike Wheeler tweeted after the race. “P10 of 22 cars on the lead lap. Earlier in race with similar position, it was split who pitted vs stayed. And no one on tires drove to the lead. We were on the same page to stay. It didn’t work out. And yes my head hurts.”
On lap 281, Ky. Busch was spun by Chastain as they approached the start/finish line. Arizona native Michael McDowell suffered a speeding infraction on his stop.
Logano and Truex comprised the front row for the green flag with 25 laps left. Ten laps later, Wallace clipped Cole Custer and he hit the outside wall, resulting in damage to the latter and a pit stop but no yellow flag. Logano began to lose momentum on Truex, reaching 1.8 seconds by the penultimate lap.
With Logano too far back, Truex drove off to his first career victory at Phoenix after 31 tries at the Cup level. He also failed to visit Victory Lane in four tries in the now-Xfinity Series during his championship campaigns there in 2004 and 2005 and a one-off in 2010. It is the 2017 champion’s twenty-eighth career win.
“I’m kind of speechless. This feels pretty amazing,” Truex told Fox in his post-race interview. “Phoenix has been a tough one for us, and to come here and win this—I wish it was November—but hopefully, we can come back here in November and have a shot at being in the final four.”
|1||5||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||312||Running|
|2||9||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||312||Running|
|3||3||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||312||Running|
|4||1||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||312||Running|
|5||6||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|6||18||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||312||Running|
|7||2||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|8||10||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|9||4||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||312||Running|
|10||8||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||312||Running|
|11||32||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||312||Running|
|12||11||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|13||21||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|14||20||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||312||Running|
|15||12||1||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|16||25||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||312||Running|
|17||13||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|18||17||17||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||312||Running|
|19||22||42||Ross Chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|20||14||43||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|21||27||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|22||26||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||312||Running|
|23||16||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||312||Running|
|24||29||77||Justin Haley*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||312||Running|
|25||7||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||311||Running|
|26||15||37||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||311||Running|
|27||33||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||311||Running|
|28||19||6||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||311||Running|
|29||23||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||310||Running|
|30||30||78||B.J. McLeod||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||309||Running|
|31||24||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||308||Running|
|32||35||00||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||305||Running|
|33||38||15||James Davison||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||303||Running|
|34||34||53||Garrett Smithley||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|35||36||52||Josh Bilicki||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||258||Power|
|36||31||51||Cody Ware*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||101||Accident|
|37||28||38||Anthony Alfredo||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||87||Accident|
|38||37||66||Timmy Hill*||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||15||Engine|
* – Ineligible for Cup points