Martin Truex Jr. had to overcome a first lap penalty and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate to score his first win since May Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.
Truex grabbed the lead on a final round of late race green flag pit stops cycling to the lead on lap 350 of 400 and thanks to a long green flag run and a lead of over 7 seconds held on to win this fourth race of 2021 and lock himself into the Round of 12.
“Yeah, it’s a big day,” Truex said. “It’s an important day in our history. I think all of us here — yeah, we’re proud to win, and this car is amazing and there’s so many people to thank, but what a day to win on. It reminds you of the honor and the privilege it is to get to come out here and do this.”
Denny Hamlin led the most laps on the night, 197, including 100 of the first 157, but even with three lap fresher tires after the final stops he ran out of laps, and had to settle for second losing by 1.4 seconds.
“Yeah, just a couple more,” Hamlin said. “But our pit stops were a little slow there and we lost about two or three seconds, maybe four on pit road those two stops, and about a second and a half behind. We were coming, just we got off track with our car right there in the middle stages of the race, but overall Chris and the team made great adjustments there at the end on the FedEx Camry, just needed a couple more laps, that’s all.”
The win for Truex was aided by another one his JGR teammates, Kyle Busch. Busch was leading when the final round of stops got underway, but a pit road speeding penalty cost him the lead, and the race win.
Truex started on the front row inside of Hamlin who had inherited the pole thanks to a pre-race inspection failure from original polesitter Kyle Larson who was sent to the back of the field. NASCAR ruled that Truex jumped the start however and forced him into the pits for a drive through penalty. Truex came out 29th but still on the lead lap.
“That was a tough one to swallow,” Truex said. “I knew I wasn’t the control car, but I let the 11 (Denny Hamlin) nose out ahead a little bit there but then he spun the tires. What am I supposed to do there? Am I supposed to stop in front of the field? I don’t know. I think that was kind of a bad call, a bad decision because there is nothing I could do about it. Luckily, we were able to overcome it. When those things happen, that’s all you can do. Focus forward. These guys stuck with me. They didn’t get mad. We all just kept our cool and we were able to come home with a W.”
Hamlin, who won at Darlington the previous week would go on to sweep the Stages. But by lap 300 he was fading and Busch who had been penalized for speeding on pit road early in the race, took control, giving up the lead only after his second speeding penalty.
Chase Elliott was threatening Hamlin in the mid part of the race, and led a total of 58 laps, but a miscue during a round of green flag stops on lap 181 put him a lap down in 17th. Elliott would go on the unlap himself but could only rally for fourth, just behind another JGR driver Christopher Bell in third. Joey Logano finished a quiet fifth.
Larson rallied from his last place starting spot to finish sixth; for the second week in a row Ross Chastin was the highest finishing non-Playoff driver coming home seventh, Kevin Harvick eighth, and Kyle Busch was the last car on the lead lap in ninth. Ryan Blaney was 10th, the first car a lap down.
Kyle wasn’t the only Busch to have issues. Early in the race Kurt Busch led four laps before falling back and was racing to keep the third-place spot when the left rear tire in his Chevrolet let loose sending the car hard into the outside Turn 1 wall on lap 42. He was scored last in the 37-car field.
The rest of the Playoff drivers finished at least one lap down: Alex Bowman was 12th, Brad Keselowski 13th. Aric Almirola 14th, Tyler Reddick two laps down in 15th, William Byron also two laps down in 19th and Michael McDowell finished five laps down in 28th after three pit-road speeding penalties.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders
Saturday, September 11, 2021
- (3) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 400.
- (2) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 400.
- (10) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 400.
- (13) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 400.
- (6) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 400.
- (1) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 400.
- (17) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 400.
- (5) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 400.
- (15) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 400.
- (8) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 399.
- (19) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 399.
- (12) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 399.
- (7) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 399.
- (9) Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 399.
- (11) Tyler Reddick (P), Chevrolet, 398.
- (26) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 398.
- (22) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 398.
- (28) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 398.
- (14) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 398.
- (24) Ryan Newman, Ford, 398.
- (31) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 398.
- (21) Cole Custer, Ford, 397.
- (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 397.
- (18) Chris Buescher, Ford, 396.
- (20) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 396.
- (30) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 396.
- (29) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 396.
- (16) Michael McDowell (P), Ford, 395.
- (25) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 395.
- (32) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 393.
- (36) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 389.
- (27) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 388.
- (34) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 387.
- (37) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 386.
- (35) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 386.
- (33) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 385.
- (4) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 40.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 98.307 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 3 Mins, 6 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.417 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 30 laps.
Lead Changes: 21 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Larson (P) 0;D. Hamlin (P) 1-32;K. Busch (P) 33-36;D. Hamlin (P) 37-90;C. Elliott (P) 91-131;M. Truex Jr. (P) 132;K. Larson (P) 133-134;C. Bell (P) 135-137;D. Hamlin (P) 138-161;C. Elliott (P) 162-177;D. Hamlin (P) 178-179;C. Elliott (P) 180;K. Larson (P) 181-184;C. Bell (P) 185-186;D. Hamlin (P) 187-268;M. Truex Jr. (P) 269-296;C. Bell (P) 297-301;R. Chastain 302-305;K. Busch (P) 306-344;D. Hamlin (P) 345-347;K. Larson (P) 348-349;M. Truex Jr. (P) 350-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Denny Hamlin (P) 6 times for 197 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 3 times for 80 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 3 times for 58 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 1 time for 39 laps; Christopher Bell (P) 3 times for 10 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 3 times for 8 laps; Kurt Busch (P) 1 time for 4 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 4 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,9,22,5,12,42,2,19,4,10
Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,18,19,5,22,20,42,10,48,4
The win was the 31st of Truex’s Cup career, and his third in the last five Richmond races.
After finishing 4th in both Stages, Larson earned enough stage points to lock himself into the Round of 12 joining Hamlin and Truex.
The Cup Series’ next race is next at Bristol Motor Speedway. Four drivers will be eliminated from the 16-driver playoff field after the race, the final race in the opening Round of 16. Leaving Richmond, Bowman, Reddick, Byron and McDowell are outside the top 12.