Truex dominates at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 27: Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2019 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

There’s domination in NASCAR, then there’s the kind of domination Martin Truex Jr. showed at Martinsville Sunday.   Truex led 464 of 500 laps to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series First Data 500 his seventh win of 2019 and his third at a short track this season. It was the most laps Truex has ever led in a race and most laps led in a NASCAR race since Kyle Petty led 484 at Rockingham in 1992.

“I don’t think anyone expected that,” Truex said.  “This racetrack in general, you don’t see that.  Hats off to my guys.  Pit crew was stellar today, and we didn’t make many adjustments.  We adjusted on early and it came to life, and that was a lot of fun.  I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out, who knows. “

Starting third Truex took the lead after a restart on lap 28 after a debris caution. From there Truex would go on to win both stages and the race at times leading by 4 seconds and locking himself into a spot to compete for the championship in Homestead next month.

“Miami is awesome,” Truex said. “But we’ve wanted to win here for a long time, but the guys have worked so hard, I’ve worked so hard.  I used to just be terrible here.”

Truex took the lead for the final time after a re-start after the race’s 11th and final caution with 25 to go. He easily beat William Byron to the line by 0.373 seconds.  Byron had a shot at Truex early in the final run but faded at the end.

“I wouldn’t race him dirty, but I’m really hungry for my first win, so it’s going to ‑‑ whatever it takes,” Byron said. “But he ran such a good race.  I think he would have been able to drag the brake and do all he could to keep me behind him anyway.  Close.”

Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, the polesitter who led the first 30 laps was fourth, Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.

While Truex was cruising to victory and his spot in the Final 4, other Playoff drivers struggled. Chief among them Chase Elliott.  After losing an engine in practice Saturday, Elliott was forced to start at the back of the field.  He was in the top 10 by lap 77 and made it as high as fourth, but during a round of pit stops under caution, his Chevy suffered a broken axle that eventually sent him to the garage for lengthy repairs. He finished 36th 55 laps down and will need to win at one to the next two races if he hopes to make it to the championship round at Homestead.

Kyle Busch also had issues at one point getting spun and sustaining damage. He held on to finish 14th.

His older brother Kurt was sixth, Kevin Harvick seventh and last year’s Martinsville winner Joey Logano who had late race contact with Hamlin and spun, recovered to finish eighth.  Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for next week’s AAA Texas 500 with only Truex assured of a spot in the Final 4.

“We’ve never done it this way,” Truex said.  “We’ve always pointed our way in through the third round.  This is the first time we’ve won at one of these tracks, so I mean, they still give out trophies and money the next two weeks, we’re going to go after them.”
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results First Data 500

Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, Virginia

Sunday, October 27, 2019

1. (3)  Martin Truex Jr (P), Toyota, 500.

2. (11)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 500.

3. (15)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500.

4. (1)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 500.

5. (6)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 500.

6. (25)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 500.

7. (22)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 500.

8. (10)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 500.

9. (14)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 500.

10. (35)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 500.

11. (17)  David Ragan, Ford, 500.

12. (20)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 500.

13. (26)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 500.

14. (13)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 500.

15. (16)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 500.

16. (12)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 500.

17. (18)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 500.

18. (36)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 500.

19. (21)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 500.

20. (8)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 499.

21. (28)  Paul Menard, Ford, 499.

22. (23)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 499.

23. (5)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 499.

24. (27)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 498.

25. (29)  Matt Crafton(i), Ford, 495.

26. (30)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 495.

27. (38)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 494.

28. (32)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 494.

29. (33)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 494.

30. (19)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 494.

31. (9)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 488.

32. (34)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 487.

33. (31)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 452.

34. (37)  Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, Transmission, 450.

35. (7)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, Track Bar, 449.

36. (2)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 445.

37. (4)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 363.

38. (24)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 361.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  75.448 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 29 Mins, 9 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.373 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  11 for 69 laps.

Lead Changes:  3 among 3 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin (P) 1-30;M. Truex Jr (P) 31-253;K. Larson (P) 254-259;M. Truex Jr (P) 260-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Martin Truex Jr (P) 2 times for 464 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 30 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 1 time for 6 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,11,12,14,22,24,10,9,18,41

Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,42,12,22,10,24,18,11,20,2

Greg Engle