Martin Truex Jr. finally had it come his way. Truex again dominated at Kansas Speedway leading the most laps, but unlike last season, Saturday night he was able to seal the deal and score his first win at Kansas and his second of the season.
Truex took the lead on the final restart with two laps to go after the race’s record 15th caution. He held off polesitter Ryan Blaney then stretched his lead out winning by 1.1 seconds.
“Awesome day. Awesome weekend,” Truex said. “This team rocks, man, they’re so good. We just stuck with it all night. We had an awesome race car. There’s times there we looked like we weren’t going to have a shot at it. We just kept fighting and made it happen.”
The win was the ninth of his career.
In the mad scramble behind Truex on the final two laps, Brad Keselowski, who was at one point two laps down shot to second, Kevin Harvick was third.
“We caught a couple breaks there on those restarts and made the most of them,” Keselowski said. That was good… just kept getting caught in adversity there. We worked our way through it. It stinks we finished second and still lost points because we didn’t get those stage points. All in all we had a really fast Ford and have a lot to be proud of. We will move on to the next week.”
Blaney who led 83 laps was fourth, Kyle Busch who led 59 laps was fifth.
“It happens I guess,” Blaney said. “We weren’t very good on the long run. I felt that we had a great short run car tonight and I thought that was going to play right into our hands at the end. The 78 got us on that restart somehow. I don’t know. I was super loose there on the last restarts and the 78 got me spinning my tires a little bit. It kind of stinks. I think that it says a lot about this team to go out and lead some laps and go have a shot and win races.”
The race was marred by a horrific crash on lap 200. The three-car crash happened just after a restart on lap 197. On lap 200, Joey Logano and Danica Patrick were racing for a spot just outside the top 10 entering turn 1. Something appeared to happen to the right front of Logano’s car and it immediately turned left and down into Patrick.
Both cars hit the wall hard and burst into flames. Aric Almirola running about 10 car lengths behind was unable to avoid the two cars and hit at near full speed, launching his car into the air.
All three slid to a stop in a fiery hulk. All the drivers were okay, but NASCAR immediately threw the red flag. Almirola was awake but stayed in the car and soon rescue crews were working on getting him out. The crews took the roof off the car to remove Almirola. He was eventually lifted out on a backboard and taken away in an ambulance from the scene. He was later airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical center for observation. The crash forced NASCAR to stop the race for 27 minutes, 47 seconds.
Truex, who started third, took the lead for the first time on lap 10. He would go on to lead a race high 104 laps as he and Blaney dueled for the win. He led the most important one however, finding redemption from last spring when he also led the most laps, but lost when a screw lodged in a wheel hub, loosening the tire and costing him the race.
“It’s definitely been a thorn in our side,” Truex said. “That’s for sure. You know for years and years even before I was with this team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal. Proud to get these guys back in victory lane. This is our home race track — the guys from Colorado. Appreciate all the fans. We got a lot of fans from Colorado here today. I met a bunch of them before the race and hopefully they’re all psyched.”
Kyle Larson was sixth, Daniel Suarez seventh matching his career best, with Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne rounding out the top 10.
Other notables included three from the Hendrick Motorsports stable; Kasey Kahne was inside the top 10 at one point, but finished 15th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 20th. Jimmie Johnson was a contender at one point, but was forced to race from the back of the field due to a cut tire on lap 100. He was inside the top five in the closing laps but spun after contact with Kurt Busch; Johnson was able to continue but finished 24th. Chase Elliott suffered heavy damage to his Chevy when he crashed with Michael McDowell in the pits during a caution period on lap 50; he finished 29th, nine laps down.
Saturday’s race also extended the streak for Joe Gibbs Racing to 11 races, the first time that’s happened since 2008.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads home to Charlotte for next Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.
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