Not even a spin while leading could keep Martin Truex Jr. from victory lane Saturday night. Truex took the lead for the final time with 24 laps to go and held off his teammate Kyle Busch to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway.
The win was his sixth of the season and completed the sweep of the Richmond races with his win here in April. It marks the first time in his career that the defending series champion has won back to back races.
“Man, I don’t know what to say, I really don’t,” Truex said. “I’m speechless, just an unbelievable job by all my guys.
“Had a heck of a race with Kyle and Denny all night long really, and we just kept plugging away at it, kept plugging away at it, as we always do. We just keep digging and we never quit. “
The race was a display of dominance for the entire Joe Gibbs Racing team as all 4 of its Toyota’s took the top 4 spots for the first time in the team’s history with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones finishing just behind Truex. That changed however later in post-race inspection when the JGR No. 20 car of Erik Jones failed inspection. That sent him to the back of the field and moved everyone else up one spot. The disqualification was the first in the Cup Series this year.
Kyle Busch led a race high 202 laps and won Stage 2 but had to settle for second.
“I don’t think we were as good as him all night long,” Busch said. “Martin, the car, the combination thereof, us, the combination of, just lacked a little bit. You know, like the 11 (Hamlin) lacked a little bit more than us. Just weird, I don’t know.
“We led a lot of laps. We were up front a lot. But when I was out front, he could keep the closest distance to me. That kind of worried me for a finish like that in the long run.”
Truex was leading when on lap 315, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who had just completed a green flag stop, tried to get past Truex to get a lap back. The Ford of Stenhouse got loose and came up into the rear quarter panel of the Toyota of Truex sending it spinning. Truex was able to hold onto third as the leaders pitted under the caution. He was then able to methodically wade through the lapped traffic catching Busch on lap 373 and after racing side by side was able to pull ahead and onto the 25th win of his career.
“Luckily I didn’t hit anything,” Truex said. “I just tried to keep it off the fence, tried to get spun around and get going, and we ended up ‑‑ because we were pretty far up front, we got going in a pretty good spot and left pit road in a good position and then good adjustments at the end again by Cole and James and the guys.”
Brad Keselowski, who was the only other driver to lead laps, 89 total, finished fifth and with the disqualification of Jones moved up to fourth.
Ryan Newman ran as high as fifth and finished sixth move to fifth; Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top 10. After the Jones inspection failure, Jimmie Johnson moved up to 10th.
In the Playoff standings, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have clenched a spot in the next round on points and will join Truex in the Round of 12.
For several other Playoff drivers, the night was a disaster. Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Aric Almirola all failed to score points in either stage and all, with the exception of Larson, finished outside the top 10. Logano was 11th, Chase Elliott 13th, Almirola 16th, Blaney 17th all one lap down; Kurt Busch 18th two laps down, Bowman 23th four laps down and Byron 24th also four laps down.
After losing his finishing spot and all the points that when with it, Jones will now face a must-win situation as the series heads to Charlottes Roval next Sunday for its second ever race on the road course inside the 1.5-mile track. It will mark the cutoff race for the Round of 12. It’s a race that has many concerned.
“Last year I thought we were going to be all right and finish okay, but then we all decided to follow everybody else off a cliff,” said Kyle Busch who crashed out near the end and finished 32nd. “It was pretty ugly. But overall just ‑‑ you try to go into that race, it’s a newer type of track, and I don’t know that everybody has got it quite figured out exactly yet. With this new aero package, it’s going to be different and of course, too, with the new chicane it’s going to be different.”
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Federated Auto Parts 400
Saturday, September 21, 2019
1. (8) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 400.
2. (4) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 400.
3. (6) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 400.
4. (1) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 400.
5. (19) Ryan Newman (P), Ford, 400.
6. (13) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 400.
7. (2) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 400.
8. (5) Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 400.
9. (14) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 400.
10. (10) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400.
11. (28) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 400.
12. (37) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 400.
13. (3) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 399.
14. (12) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 399.
15. (18) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 399.
16. (7) Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 399.
17. (15) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 399.
18. (9) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 398.
19. (27) David Ragan, Ford, 398.
20. (26) Matt Tifft #, Ford, 397.
21. (11) Michael McDowell, Ford, 397.
22. (17) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 396.
23. (20) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 396.
24. (25) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 396.
25. (22) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 396.
26. (30) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 396.
27. (24) Paul Menard, Ford, 395.
28. (34) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 395.
29. (29) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 395.
30. (21) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 394.
31. (23) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 393.
32. (32) Austin Theriault, Chevrolet, 392.
33. (38) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 391.
34. (35) Spencer Boyd(i), Chevrolet, 388.
35. (36) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 384.
36. (31) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, Brakes, 265.
37. (33) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Accident, 233.
38. (16) Erik Jones (P), Toyota, 400.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 101.437 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 57 Mins, 27 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.630 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 32 laps.
Lead Changes: 6 among 3 drivers.
Lap Leaders: B. Keselowski (P) 1-53;M. Truex Jr. (P) 54-103;K. Busch (P) 104-245;B. Keselowski (P) 246-281;M. Truex Jr. (P) 282-314;K. Busch (P) 315-374;M. Truex Jr. (P) 375-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch (P) 2 times for 202 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 3 times for 109 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 2 times for 89 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,18,2,11,4,14,95,9,48,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,19,11,2,6,4,9,14,48,42