Unlike the last two races, Martin Truex Jr. had no issues in the final five laps Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. Truex won the NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400, the first race in NASCAR’s playoffs. Here’s how it all went down:
From his seventh pole of the season, and his first at Chicagoland, Kyle Busch led the field to the green. Denny Hamlin, Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Erik Jones and Timmy Hill were sent to the rear for unapproved tire changes.
The start time had also been moved up to avoid possible inclement weather.
Busch had a clear lead by turn 1; Truex fell into second, Hamlin third, Harvick fourth. Chase Elliott and Keselowski battled for fifth. Elliott had the spot by lap 3; Keselowski fell back and Logano took sixth.
Kyle Larson who started 6th had fallen to 10th by lap 6.
Harvick was looking for third by lap 9 and had it to start lap 10.
The lead for Busch was just over 2 seconds by lap 20; he had also lapped seven cars.
Playoff contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall on lap 26 while running 19th. He pitted but was penalized for a commitment line violation. He rejoined the field two laps down.
Jimmie Johnson pitted on lap 40 with a possible loose wheel; Truex followed as did Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, and others.
Truex was penalized for speeding. Austin Dillon was also penalized for speeding. Both came back in for pass through penalties.
Kyle Busch pitted on lap 44, Hamlin followed.
When the pit stops cycled through, Busch was again in the lead, Harvick was second, followed by Elliott, Hamlin and Joey Logano. Truex was 13th, Dillon 26th.
The lead was 3.5 seconds by lap 63; there were 15 cars on the lead lap. 14 on the lead lap by lap 68. Included in those a lap down were four playoff drivers: Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, and Dillon.
With 10 to go in the first stage the lead was nearing 5 seconds for Busch.
Top 10 Stage 1: Busch, Harvick, Elliott, Hamlin, Logano, Keselowski, Kenseth, Larson, Daniel Suarez and Truex.
The first caution of the day came out to end the stage.
The leaders all pitted on lap 82. Kyle Busch was out first followed by Harvick, Hamlin, Elliott and Logano.
Truex was forced to pit again with only three lug nuts on a right rear tire. He restarted 13th.
Stage 2 got underway on lap 88.
Busch took the lead but Harvick shot by on the outside to take the lead out of turn 2. Elliott was third, Keselowski fourth, Hamlin fifth. There were 16 cars on the lead lap.
Kyle Busch reported a possible loose wheel on lap 94. Harvick’s lead was just over a second.
Busch pitted on lap 96 with his possible loose wheel. He was penalized for a crew member going over the wall too soon. He had to do a pass through. He came on lap 102. He rejoined the field 29th, two laps down.
In the garage, NASCAR took the tires of the Kyle Busch crew as well as the Truex crew to inspect them. They were looking to see if they were leaking air, which could change the pressure and give an advantage.
Kyle Busch passed leader Harvick on lap 113 to get one of his two laps back, he was 26th.
Elliott was catching Harvick by lap 120, he was less than a half a second behind.
Kenseth pitted on lap 122. Truex followed. Others deeper in the field followed.
Elliott pitted from second on lap 124, as did Harvick. Elliott beat Harvick off pit road. He had the lead as the pit stops cycled through. Larson was third, Keselowski fourth, and Truex fifth.
Kyle Busch pitted on lap 129.
Elliott’s lead was 1.2 seconds by lap 132.
Truex took fourth on lap 148. He went to third on lap 152.
With 10 to go in the stage, the lead was just under a second.
Top 10 Stage 2: Elliott, Harvick, Truex, Larson, Keselowski, Hamlin, Logano, Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Jamie McMurray. The second yellow of the day came out to end the stage.
The leaders all pitted. There were 13 cars on the lead lap. Elliott was out first followed by Harvick, Truex, Keselowski and Hamlin.
The final stage started on lap 168; Harvick again took the lead; behind them McMurray spun exiting turn 2 but hit nothing and was able to continue. Caution three came out. It appeared that Blaney made contact with Newman sending Newman into the rear of McMurray.
None of the leaders pitted and the green came out to start lap 173.
Harvick checked out and took the lead, Keselowski and Elliott were side by side for second; Truex lurked close behind. Elliott had the second spot a lap later.
Truex took third on lap 176. Kyle Busch was 17th, the first car a lap down; in position for a free pass.
Kurt Busch took fifth on lap 182; Harvick’s lead over Elliott was 1.3 seconds. Kurt Busch was dropping back with a vibration.
Truex took second on lap 184. He caught Harvick on lap 190 and easily took the lead.
Elliott was looking for second by lap 193 and had the spot to start lap 194.
Truex had a lead nearing two seconds by lap 197.
Kurt Busch pitted on lap 200. He was penalized for speeding on pit road.
Erik Jones spun coming into turn 4 on lap 209 and caution 4 came out. Jones had minimal damage was able to continue.
Truex had passed other cars just prior, so Kyle Busch was no longer in the free pass spot.
The leaders pitted. Truex was out first followed by Harvick, Elliott, Keselowski and Larson.
Green came out to start lap 216. Truex took the lead on the outside, Harvick fell into second, Keselowski was third followed by Elliott and Hamlin by the end of the lap.
Elliott took third on lap 219.
Hamlin took fourth on lap 220.
Kyle Busch retook the free pass spot from Dillon on lap 241, Larson was looking for fifth from Keselowski. Truex had a 2.7 second lead.
Larson took fifth on lap 242.
The lead for Truex was 3.2 seconds with 20 to go.
With 15 to go the lead was 4.3 seconds.
Truex put Paul Menard a lap down with 10 to go, meaning Kyle Busch was no longer the free pass car.
With 5 to go the lead was 5.5 seconds.
When the white flag waved, Truex had a 6.9 second lead. There was no drama and Truex won. Elliott was second followed by Harvick, Hamlin, and Larson in the top five.
Keselowski was sixth followed by Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kenseth and McMurray in the top 10.
Other playoff drivers:
Blaney was 11th, Kyle Busch 15th, Austin Dillon 16th, Kurt Busch 19th, Kasey Kahne 21st, Ryan Newman 23rd and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 25th.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday. The ISM Connect 300 will get the green flag just after 3:00 p.m. ET with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network.