Martin Truex Jr. won a NASCAR Cup series race. At Martinsville Speedway. On a Wednesday night. Under the lights.
In a year filled with sorts of weirdness thanks to a pandemic, that is NASCAR’s new normal.
Truex won his second consecutive race at Martinsville Wednesday night leading the final 132 laps and winning his first race of 2020 by 4.7 seconds.
“We’ve been working a long time at trying to figure this place out and just chipping away at it,” Truex said. “Last year to get the win and this year, just hats off to the guys.”
Truex overcame a penalty for a commitment line violation charged through the field took the lead and never looked back.
“We never quit on it, we never gave up on it and we worked hard,” Truex said. “The first run of the race when the track was green, we pushed the right-front tire off in 30 laps and I was like, ‘oh man, this is going to be a long night.’ From there on we just kept making adjustments.”
“We got up towards the front and then we had a pit road penalty and had to go to the back. It was really, really difficult to get through the field. Once we got near the front, I was like, okay we got something. Then we made one more adjustment and the thing took off. “
It was the third midweek race for NASCAR as it races to catchup on the season postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the first night Cup series race at Martinsville since it opened in 1949. NASCAR’s oldest active venue installed the lights after the 2017 to accommodate the NASCAR Late Model Series.
While Truex cruised to victory up front perhaps no driver worked as hard as second place finisher Ryan Blaney. Blaney started on the pole thanks to a draw among the top 12 drivers in points, fell a lap down early in the going. He rallied to fifth by lap 183 after getting the free pass at the end of Stage 1.
Blaney would finish second in Stage 2. But during pit stops after a caution for a spin by David Starr on lap 326 Blaney’s front tire changer lost the air gun as he moved from one side of the car to the other. Then NASCAR penalized the team for a crewmember over the wall too soon. He was 18th on the restart.
“We were awful at the start of the race and went a lap down in the first 60 laps,” Blaney said. “That’s bad. Luckily, we got the car a lot better. Even the first stop and I got the lucky dog and really drove up through there and ran second the second stage. Then we had a penalty on pit road, which sent us back again, so I was happy we were able to come back up through second. I would have loved to restart towards the front with Martin to see, if I didn’t have to pass all those cars, if I could have raced with him.”
Brad Keselowski also fought his way back from a lap down to finish third. Joey Logano led a race high 234 laps in the early part of the race and won Stage 1, but had to settle for fourth. Chase Elliott was fifth.
“Wasn’t quite good enough to hold off the 19(Truex),” Keselowski said. “He was super, super strong. He proved why he’s so good. He just kept passing cars, just flying. Pretty impressive.”
There were seven cautions on the night, four of those for minor incidents. Rain had threatened the race and in fact fell about an hour before the green flag. The weather held, the race ran dry, with the rains returning 15 minutes after the checkered flag fell.
Alex Bowman was sixth, Matt DiBenedetto seventh, followed by William Byron and Kurt Busch. Jimmie Johnson led 70 laps in the middle of the race, won Stage 2 but faded at the end and finished 10th.
Bubba Wallace who was in the national spotlight this week due to the nationwide unrest over the death of George Floyd, an African American man, while in police custody in Minneapolis, ran a Black Lives Matter paint scheme and finished in the top 10 in both stages for the first time in his career. On the day NASCAR announced it will ban the Confederate flag from its races and properties, Wallace finished 11th.
“All in all, great job to come here and execute with no practice,” said Wallace, who has two NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series wins at Martinsville. “My favorite place and it just continues to show.
“I’ll tell you what was badass was to race with ole seven-time (Johnson) there at the end. You think Jimmie Johnson wins so many times here and we’re running him down. Hats off to my guys. Good job fellows.”
All three of NASCAR’s National touring series will head south to make up the postponed races at Homestead-Miami Speedway in three short days. Sunday’s Cup event, postponed form March, will be the first to allow guests as 1000 local service members at their families will be in attendance.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
1. (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 500.
2. (1) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 500.
3. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500.
4. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 500.
5. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500.
6. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 500.
7. (19) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 500.
8. (15) William Byron, Chevrolet, 500.
9. (9) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 500.
10. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 500.
11. (23) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 500.
12. (16) Ryan Newman, Ford, 500.
13. (24) Chris Buescher, Ford, 500.
14. (29) Michael McDowell, Ford, 500.
15. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 499.
16. (14) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 499.
17. (4) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 499.
18. (25) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 499.
19. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 499.
20. (13) Erik Jones, Toyota, 497.
21. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 497.
22. (30) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 497.
23. (20) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 497.
24. (12) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 497.
25. (18) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 497.
26. (28) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 496.
27. (37) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 494.
28. (32) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 494.
29. (27) Cole Custer #, Ford, 494.
30. (31) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 494.
31. (26) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 493.
32. (33) David Starr(i), Chevrolet, 479.
33. (2) Aric Almirola, Ford, Battery, 476.
34. (34) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 474.
35. (36) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 464.
36. (35) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 450.
37. (22) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 399.
38. (39) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Electrical, 295.
39. (38) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Fuel Pump, 105.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 77.378 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 23 Mins, 56 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.705 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 52 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Blaney 0;A. Almirola 1-19;J. Logano 20-62;C. Elliott 63;J. Logano 64-114;M. Truex Jr. 115;C. LaJoie 116-120;J. Logano 121-201;J. Johnson 202-271;R. Blaney 272-283;J. Logano 284-306;R. Blaney 307-328;J. Logano 329-364;B. Keselowski 365-369;M. Truex Jr. 370-500.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Joey Logano 5 times for 234 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 132 laps; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 70 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 34 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 19 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 5 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 5 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,14,48,19,43,9,1,4,21,24
Stage #2 Top Ten: 48,12,22,88,4,43,24,9,1,8