Truex Ends Skid At Phoenix

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 15 2021

Martin Truex, Jr. and his team picked up a happy victory in Phoenix on Sunday. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

At 29 races, Martin Truex, Jr.’s winless streak was really not all that bad. It just felt like it was to him and his Joe Gibbs Racing team.

Hence the relief after that streak ended on Sunday when Truex won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
“I wouldn’t say we needed it,” Truex said. “I’d say we really were hungry for it. We really wanted it, obviously. We worked really hard. We’ve got a great team. It seemed like for whatever reason, it was always little things that were biting us. We were always so close, always second or third. I don’t know how many times we’ve been second, third, fourth, top five since we won last year at Martinsville. It’s been a bunch.
“It’s like, Man, what do we have to do to turn it around so it’s our day? I think that’s probably what you see, a little bit of relief and excitement for how hard the guys have really worked to put together all the details and make it happen.”
Truex took the lead on a restart with 25 laps to go, held off Joey Logano and went on to win by 1.698 seconds. It was his first-ever win at the Phoenix mile.
“This feels pretty amazing,” Truex said. “Phoenix has been a tough one for us. To come here and win this, I wish it was in November (when the track will host the championship-deciding final race of the season) but hopefully we can come back in November and have a shot at being in the final four.”
He led three times for 64 laps on the 1-mile Phoenix flat oval and became the fifth winner in five races in 2021.
The victory was the first for Truex since he got his lone win of 2020 at Martinsville Speedway in the 11th race of that season. But it was the 28th win of his career.
Truex got the victory despite being slow and scrapping the wall early in the race.
“At the beginning of the race,” he said, “I thought we were going to run 15th or so. Man, I can’t really believe it. I’m kind of speechless.”
But midway through the race, Truex’s crew got the car fixed and dialed in.
“They had the best car,” Logano said. “They tuned it in. We had a good car for sure but once they turned it in toward the end of the second stage, they had the best car on the race track.”
Team Penske’s Logano finished second after leading a race-best 143 laps.
What may have cost him the victory was a decision to opt for the bottom line on the final restart.
“I was surprised he was able to hang with me on that restart,” Logano, a two-time winner at Phoenix, said. “I felt he had a good start too but I had a good one on the bottom but I thought the amount of short cut on the dog leg, I thought, boy, I’m going to have him cleared and we went into the corner we were still door to door and when you’re door to door, the outside car has control.”
Placing third was Truex’s teammate, Denny Hamlin.
Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski finished fourth.
Defending series champion Chase Elliott was fifth.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has won more times at Phoenix than any driver in the history of the track — nine times. But on Sunday, he was sixth,
Seventh was Kyle Larson, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate and the winner a week ago in Las Vegas.
William Byron, who won at Homestead-Miami Speedway two weeks ago, was eighth in his Hendrick car.
Three Hendrick drivers were forced to start from the rear of the field — Larson and Byron for failing pre-race inspection, and Elliott for unapproved adjustments to his cars.
It didn’t matter as all three worked their way back into the top 10 by Lap 67. Larson got there despite being sent to the rear of the field a second time for speeding during caution.
Racing moves back to a 1.5-mile oval next weekend when the series hits Atlanta Motor Speedway for race six of the season.

NASCAR Cup Series Race
Phoenix Raceway
Avondale, Arizona
Sunday, March 14, 2021

  1. (5)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 312.
  2. (9)  Joey Logano, Ford, 312.
  3. (3)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 312.
  4. (1)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 312.
  5. (6)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 312.
  6. (18)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 312.
  7. (2)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 312.
  8. (10)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 312.
  9. (4)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 312.
  10. (8)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 312.
  11. (32)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 312.
  12. (11)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 312.
  13. (21)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 312.
  14. (20)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 312.
  15. (12)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 312.
  16. (25)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 312.
  17. (13)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 312.
  18. (17)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 312.
  19. (22)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 312.
  20. (14)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 312.
  21. (27)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 312.
  22. (26)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 312.
  23. (16)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 312.
  24. (29)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 312.
  25. (7)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 311.
  26. (15)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 311.
  27. (33)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 311.
  28. (19)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 311.
  29. (23)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 310.
  30. (30)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 309.
  31. (24)  Cole Custer, Ford, 308.
  32. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 305.
  33. (38)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 303.
  34. (34)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 300.
  35. (36)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, Power Steering, 258.
  36. (31)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 101.
  37. (28)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, Accident, 87.
  38. (37)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Engine, 15.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  103.808 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 0 Mins, 20 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.698 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 45 laps.

Lead Changes:  22 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Keselowski 1-2;D. Hamlin 3-33;B. Keselowski 34-43;R. Blaney 44-78;B. Keselowski 79;J. Logano 80-141;K. Larson 142;B. Wallace 143;C. LaJoie 144-155;J. Logano 156-193;D. Hamlin 194;J. Logano 195-223;M. Truex Jr. 224-253;R. Stenhouse Jr. 254;M. Truex Jr. 255-263;D. Hamlin 264;B. Wallace 265-267;J. Logano 268;B. Keselowski 269-273;J. Logano 274-283;B. Keselowski 284;J. Logano 285-287;M. Truex Jr. 288-312.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Joey Logano 6 times for 143 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 3 times for 64 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 35 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 33 laps; Brad Keselowski 5 times for 19 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 12 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 4 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Larson 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 12,22,2,11,9,18,4,24,5,21

Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,19,11,2,12,4,24,10,9,20

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 15 2021
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