Truex Wins Martinsville Under Cover of Darkness

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, April 12 2021

Martin Truex, Jr. lights up his tires after winning at Martinsville on Sunday. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The darkness of a spring evening in Virginia fell at a perfect time for Martin Truex, Jr. on Sunday. It fell just in time to give him his second victory of the 2021 NASCAR Cup season.

That victory was his third at Martinsville Speedway, all coming in the last four races at the historic .526-mile track.

The race – originally scheduled for Saturday evening but moved to Sunday because of rain – began in the bright afternoon sunlight. In those conditions, Truex’s car was only good.

“I thought throughout the day we were a third- to a fifth-place car in there,” the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. “At one point in the middle of the race we got off a little bit, probably a sixth- or seventh-place car. It was kind of a weird day.”

But what a night.

Late in the 500-lapper, the sun began to sink and so did Denny Hamlin, who had the dominating car during the daylight hours – he had led seven times for a race-best 276 laps.

“He started getting tight, our car was getting better and better,” Truex said of Hamlin, his JGR teammate. “We were able to take advantage of it. Really happy. For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down. Always good when a plan comes together and it works out the way you hoped it would.

“The last run it really looked like he flipped the switch and got tight, which probably the sun going down, I don’t know if they made adjustments to be able to run faster for shorter runs at the end. I don’t know, whatever happened. His car really flipped a switch.

“At that point I was like, I knew I could get by him, I just needed to be patient. No sense in pushing it with plenty of laps left and the 9 was pretty far back.”

Truex caught and passed Hamlin with 16 laps to go, watched in his rear-view mirror as Hamlin and Chase Elliott battled for second place and went on to beat Elliott to the finish line by 1.9 seconds.

“I can’t believe we won here again,” Truex said. “It was a lot of fun racing at the end there racing with Denny. We raced clean and we came out on top. We played nice and coach (team owner Joe Gibbs) will be happy and it will be a cordial meeting tomorrow.”

Truex got his first victory of 2021 three races ago at Phoenix Raceway. In 2020, he and his team won just one race. So, two already eight races into 2021.

“I feel really good about our team, overall what we can do this year,” he said. “Our cars are strong. Our team is strong. We’ve been together a long time. Obviously last year James was the new piece moving to crew chief, but, man, he’s done a great job. Last year, for whatever reason, seemed like we were missing the tiniest little things. Sometimes it wasn’t even things we were doing wrong. Sometimes you feel like things aren’t meant to be, honestly.”

Elliott has gotten off to a slow start his season. His runner-up finish was by far his best of 2021.

“That run (at the end, where he over took Hamlin for second) was kind of the right distance for me there at the end to maximize it,” Elliott said. “Anything longer than that I was probably going to fade kind of like I did all day.

“I’ve had a very eventful year I feel like so it’s nice to have a solid day. I got some stage points and got a good finish.

Hamlin finished third. He was attempting to join Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt and Fred Lorenzen as a six-time winner at Martinsville.

“Fortunately for us, we had a great day, stayed up front all day and had ourselves a shot at it. But wasn’t quite good enough,” Hamlin said.

“We had a really good short-run car. We just didn’t have a long-run car. We just couldn’t get our car to turn in the long run.

“We had a really fast car for 20 laps or so and then it would just kind of go away.”

William Byron, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, finished fourth. Fifth as a third Hendrick driver, Kyle Larson.

The race featured 15 cautions.

The most notable crash occurred with 113 laps to go as it involved contenders Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch _ all of whom are three-time winners at the track. Twleve other drivers were also involved, including Alex Bowman who ran in the top five for much of the day.

“There was a crash in front of me and I stopped and the guys behind me didn’t stop,” Bowman said. “I thought we had a car capable of winning.”

The wreck brought out a red flag of almost 25 minutes.

“Just kind one of those compounding, frustrating short track days,” Keselowski said.

The 500-lapper was originally scheduled to be the first true night race at the historic .526-mile, paperclip-shaped track on Saturday. Wet weather messed with that schedule.

The race’s start was delayed for almost and hour and a half by wet weather on Saturday night. Once it did start, it was red-flagged for good when rain picked up on Lap 42. Workers lost the track and officials announced the race would resume on Sunday.

Hamlin had the lead when the race was postponed.


NASCAR Cup Series Race
Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville, Virginia
Sunday, April 11, 2021

1. (7) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 500.
2. (5) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500.
3. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500.
4. (3) William Byron, Chevrolet, 500.
5. (19) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 500.
6. (1) Joey Logano, Ford, 500.
7. (23) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 500.
8. (13) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 500.
9. (9) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 500.
10. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500.
11. (4) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 500.
12. (22) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 500.
13. (15) Chris Buescher, Ford, 500.
14. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 500.
15. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 500.
16. (25) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 500.
17. (27) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 500.
18. (26) Cole Custer, Ford, 500.
19. (8) Ryan Newman, Ford, 499.
20. (31) Aric Almirola, Ford, 499.
21. (21) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 498.
22. (37) James Davison, Chevrolet, 494.
23. (33) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 493.
24. (29) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 493.
25. (28) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 492.
26. (35) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 492.
27. (24) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 491.
28. (32) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 490.
29. (36) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 478.
30. (16) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 403.
31. (14) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 387.
32. (11) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 386.
33. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 385.
34. (20) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 384.
35. (30) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 383.
36. (17) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Accident, 382.
37. (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


| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, April 12 2021
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