The NASCAR Cup series finally has a two-time winner in 2021. That honor belongs to Martin Truex Jr. who broke a string of seven different winners to start the season with a win at Martinsville Speedway Sunday.
Truex survived an overnight rain delay and 15 cautions taking the lead from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin with 14 to go to score his third Martinsville win in the last three races at NASCAR’s shortest track.
Truex led out of the pits after the race’s final caution on lap 458, but Hamlin, who led a race high 276 of the 500 laps grabbed the lead and started to check out. Truex hunted him down however and took the lead after several laps that saw the two fight door to door while dodging lapped traffic.
“It was good, hard, clean hard racing,” Truex said. “He (Denny Hamlin) was getting tight. I couldn’t get the power down so we kind of had opposite things going on there. I could get inside of him, but I couldn’t clear him, he could get the power down on me. It was a fun battle and it was a clean battle. Coach (Joe Gibbs, team owner) will be happy tomorrow. We didn’t make each other mad or do anything stupid.”
After Truex took the lead, Chase Elliott in third began his own battle with Hamlin allowing Truex to check out winning by 1.972 over Elliott who finally took the second spot with five to go.
“I guess our strong suit was kind of early on in the run” Elliott said. “Then really faded hard, too hard there latter part of a run.
“But we never got one of those super long runs, which is probably a good thing for us because we were struggling on that end. But, yeah, proud we could fight back. We had a long day with strategy not going our way, restart lane choice at times was tough. I’m glad we were able to get back in the fight there and give ourselves a chance.”
The once dominant Hamlin had to settle for third.
“That’s just the cards we were dealt,” Hamlin said. “We had a really good short run car. We just didn’t have a good long run car. We saved a set of tires – we had the tire advantage – but we couldn’t get the car to turn on the long run. That was the bugaboo, you could say.”
William Byron and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.
The race actually started Saturday night and completed 42 laps before rain forced a delay. The sun was shining when the field re-took the green flag Sunday afternoon. Ryan Blaney would sweep both stages and was in contention until the final stop when he ran over his air hose leaving the pits and was penalized by NASCAR and sent to the rear of the field. Blaney led the second most laps on the day, 157, but had to settle for 11th.
“On the long runs we were really good,” Blaney said. “Denny was good on short runs. I was just kind of trying to hold off the guys behind me until we got 20 or so laps in and then I could kind of start creeping forward. But, we just got that pit road penalty at the end. It’s just a mistake and something that should be avoided. We’ve had an issue the last three times we’ve been here with a car to win, so that’s frustrating but I’m real proud of the effort. I just wish we could close one out.”
Early on is looked to be a Hamlin runaway, but a caution on lap 276 had teams playing different pit strategies with some staying out, and others pitting. With track position the complexion of the race changed until the closing stages.
The race was slowed by numerous cautions on the day most involving one or two cars. The biggest was a 12-car pileup that started when Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher got together coming out of turn 2 on lap 387. The two cars came to rest blocking the backstretch and stacking up 10 others including Brad Keselowski. The crash forced NASCAR to put out a red flag for nearly 20 minutes for cleanup.
“It’s just unfortunate that we got caught up in it,” Keselowski said.” It looked like some guys got in front of me and the track was blocked. I think I was just barely going to get stopped in time and somebody clobbered me from behind and just tore us up. It’s a bummer. I think we were really good.”
Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Kevin Harvick took home sixth through ninth. Kyle Busch was able to overcome the lap 387 accident to rally to tenth giving Joe Gibbs Racing all four cars with a top 10 finish.
The NASCAR Cup series heads up the road to Richmond for next Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
Saturday, April 10, 2021
- (7) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 500.
- (5) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500.
- (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500.
- (3) William Byron, Chevrolet, 500.
- (19) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 500.
- (1) Joey Logano, Ford, 500.
- (23) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 500.
- (13) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 500.
- (9) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 500.
- (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500.
- (4) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 500.
- (22) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 500.
- (15) Chris Buescher, Ford, 500.
- (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 500.
- (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 500.
- (25) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 500.
- (27) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 500.
- (26) Cole Custer, Ford, 500.
- (8) Ryan Newman, Ford, 499.
- (31) Aric Almirola, Ford, 499.
- (21) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 498.
- (37) James Davison, Chevrolet, 494.
- (33) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 493.
- (29) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 493.
- (28) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 492.
- (35) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 492.
- (24) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 491.
- (32) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 490.
- (36) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 478.
- (16) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 403.
- (14) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 387.
- (11) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 386.
- (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 385.
- (20) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 384.
- (30) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 383.
- (17) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Accident, 382.
- (34) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Accident, 374.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 67.316 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 54 Mins, 25 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.972 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 15 for 102 laps.
Lead Changes: 18 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Logano 1-3;D. Hamlin 4-38;J. Logano 39;D. Hamlin 40-74;R. Blaney 75-140;D. Hamlin 141-174;R. Blaney 175-264;D. Hamlin 265-290;J. Logano 291;B. Wallace 292-314;W. Byron 315-323;D. Hamlin 324-372;J. Logano 373;C. Bell 374-382;D. Hamlin 383-453;R. Blaney 454;M. Truex Jr. 455-458;D. Hamlin 459-484;M. Truex Jr. 485-500.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Denny Hamlin 7 times for 276 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 157 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 23 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 20 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 9 laps; William Byron 1 time for 9 laps; Joey Logano 4 times for 6 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 12,11,19,9,5,24,48,2,22,20
Stage #2 Top Ten: 12,11,19,9,48,2,24,8,18,1
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