Martin Truex Jr. is good at Richmond Raceway. Two years after sweeping the NASCAR Cup Series races there, he led the final fifty-one laps in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders to win his fourth race of the year and punch his ticket to the Round of 12.
Much like Xfinity Series race winner Noah Gragson earlier in the day, Truex started third while points leader Kyle Larson was on pole; Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Denny Hamlin began the night in second. Truex briefly enjoyed a strong start before it turned out to be too good as he was penalised for jumping at the line, forcing him to pass through pit road before rejoining. After six playoff drivers wrecked out in last week’s Darlington event, the streak continued when Kurt Busch spun and slammed into the turn one wall on lap 42.
At the front, Hamlin led all but four laps (Busch led four under competition caution) to win the first stage ahead of Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Larson, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Truex, Kevin Harvick, and Aric Almirola. All but Chastain were playoff drivers.
The 148-lap Stage #2 ran completely green with Hamlin, Elliott, Truex, and Larson leading significant laps. JGR’s Christopher Bell also enjoyed some time in front during the green-flag pit cycle. During his stop, Elliott backed up under the belief that he was in a lengthy stop, but inadvertently destroyed his crew’s jack and consequently sinking him a lap down. By the green-checkered flag, Hamlin led a JGR 1–2–3 with Kyle Busch and Truex tailing. Larson, Logano, Bell, Chastain, Almirola, Alex Bowman, and Harvick. Bell and Chastain split the playoff racers.
Hamlin kicked off the final stage by continuing to lead. Six laps in, Bubba Wallace‘s brakes failed and he wrecked for what would be the segment’s only caution. As the race crossed the 100-to-go mark, drivers began pitting under green; Michael McDowell, who finished last in the playoff opener, continued to have postseason woes when he was slapped with a speeding penalty for a third time. Another pit cycle came with fifty laps left, during which Truex inherited the lead from Larson as he made his stop. Busch sped on pit road and received a penalty.
Truex pulled away, lapping all but the top nine cars, en route to his fourth win of 2021, first since Darlington in May, and third at Richmond. Hamlin and Bell completed the JGR top three sweep.
“[The start violation penalty] was frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” said Truex. “But I knew we’d have a good enough car to overcome it. It felt pretty good the first couple laps. Just one of those things. You’ve got to put it out of your mind and you’ve got to go race, and we knew there was a lot on the line tonight. Very happy to get to do this and go to Bristol without any worries next week is always fun.”
|1||3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|2||2||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|3||10||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|4||13||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|5||6||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||400||Running|
|6||1||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|7||17||42||Ross Chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|8||5||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|9||15||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|10||8||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||399||Running|
|11||19||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|12||12||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|13||7||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||399||Running|
|14||9||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||399||Running|
|15||11||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||398||Running|
|16||26||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||398||Running|
|17||22||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||398||Running|
|18||28||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||398||Running|
|19||14||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||398||Running|
|20||24||6||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||398||Running|
|21||31||43||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||398||Running|
|22||21||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||397||Running|
|23||23||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||397||Running|
|24||18||17||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||396||Running|
|25||20||37||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||396||Running|
|26||30||38||Anthony Alfredo||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||396||Running|
|27||29||77||Justin Haley*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||396||Running|
|28||16||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||395||Running|
|29||25||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||395||Running|
|30||32||78||B.J. McLeod*||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||393||Running|
|31||36||51||Garrett Smithley*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||389||Running|
|32||27||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||388||Running|
|33||34||15||Joey Gase*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||387||Running|
|34||37||53||J.J. Yeley*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||386||Running|
|35||35||00||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||386||Running|
|36||33||52||Josh Bilicki||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||385||Running|
|37||4||1||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||40||Accident|
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points