Truex A Lap-Leading Machine In Darlington Win

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 9 2021

Martin Truex Jr. picked up his third Cup Series victory of the season Sunday at Darlington.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The sweat on Martin Truex, Jr.’s brow late Sunday afternoon was not just the result of the heat and humidity in South Carolina. Adding to it was the sight of Kyle Larson moving in on his rear bumper late in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway.

Truex had dominated the 400-miler up until the final 30 laps but after the final pit stops of the day, there came Larson in his Hendrick Motorsports Camaro.

“It was really loose that last run and I was nevous with the 5 (Larson) catching us. And we got mired in some traffic there,” the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. “That’s always tough.”

But with about five laps to go, Truex shook Larson from his rear bumper and went on to get the victory.

Truex’s margin of victory over Larson was 2.51 seconds.

Truex led 248 of 293 laps. At times, his margin over the closest driver behind him was more than 10 seconds — or a third of a lap at the 1.33-mile egg-shaped oval.

“We just had good balance,” Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, said. “The car would do what I wanted it to do. I just had to manage those long runs.”

Truex’s other wins this year were at Phoenix and Martinsville. No other driver has won more than once in 2021.

“Hopefully we can keep this rolling,” he said.

The victory was Truex’s second at Darlington but it didn’t come without a late-race challenge as Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports hunted him down over the final 30 laps, made his way to Truex’s rear bumper and stayed there until fading with five laps to go.

“I was surprised that I was able to get to him,” Larson said. “I caught him really; like, I closed on pit road and then I caught him pretty quickly once we were on track. I closed right in, and actually had an opportunity to get by him in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2, but I thought I’d stay patient and maybe get him to use his stuff up. He was just a little bit better than I was in the long runs. So, just wish maybe I could have taken advantage of that opportunity, but thought it was going to play out a little differently.”

Kyle Busch, who won a week ago at Kansas, had the lead just before blowing a tire and spinning on Lap 22. But he came back from that and finished third.

“Solid day overall,” Busch said. “Just missing a little bit on the long runs. Seems like could fire off with Truex there and hang with him a little bit. Actually, we’d catch him for about five laps and then it was over.”

William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports was fourth and Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin was fifth.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick won two of the three Darlington races last year and finished third in the other. But all those races were run in cars with more downforce and 200 less horsepower — 550 vs. 750. Harvick finished sixth.

Both Hendricks’ Chase Elliott and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola were forced to start from the rear of the field. Elliott for unapproved adjustments to his car and Almirola for twice failing pre-race inspection.

Almirola’s day ended when he was tapped from behind and slammed into the inside wall.

“I got wrecked. Pretty simple,” Almirola said. “We were really fast. We had to start last and we were passing a bunch of cars. We were three-quarters of a second faster than the next 10 to 15 cars in front of us. We were passing about one a lap and I got to the 47 and passed him in the middle of 1 and 2 and then at the exit of 2 I had to check up just a little bit because I got tight and he ran right into the back of me and wrecked me.”

Elliott, on the other hand, advanced to the top 10 well before the end of the first 90-lap stage. The defending series champ finished seventh.

Next up on the schedule is a race at Dover International Speedway’ Monster Mile in Delaware.


NASCAR Cup Series Race
Darlington Raceway
Darlington, South Carolina
Sunday, May 9, 2021

  1. (4)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 293.
  2. (14)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 293.
  3. (3)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 293.
  4. (5)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 293.
  5. (7)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 293.
  6. (2)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 293.
  7. (6)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 293.
  8. (16)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 293.
  9. (11)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 293.
  10. (20)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 292.
  11. (22)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 292.
  12. (10)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 292.
  13. (12)  Joey Logano, Ford, 292.
  14. (21)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 292.
  15. (18)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 291.
  16. (9)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 291.
  17. (19)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 291.
  18. (26)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 291.
  19. (8)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 290.
  20. (28)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 290.
  21. (23)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 290.
  22. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 290.
  23. (15)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 290.
  24. (1)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 290.
  25. (29)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 290.
  26. (25)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 289.
  27. (13)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 288.
  28. (31)  Justin Haley(I), Chevrolet, 288.
  29. (34)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 286.
  30. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 286.
  31. (36)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 286.
  32. (32)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 285.
  33. (37)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 245.
  34. (33)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, Driveshaft, 188.
  35. (17)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 106.
  36. (24)  Cole Custer, Ford, Accident, 97.
  37. (27)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 5.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  123.562 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 14 Mins, 21 Secs. Margin of Victory:  2.571 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 36 laps.

Lead Changes:  19 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Keselowski 1-4;K. Harvick 5-13;K. Busch 14-21;M. Truex Jr. 22-24;T. Reddick 25;C. Ware(i) 26;M. Truex Jr. 27-60;T. Reddick 61;R. Chastain 62-71;M. Truex Jr. 72-92;D. Hamlin 93;M. Truex Jr. 94-110;D. Hamlin 111-114;M. Truex Jr. 115-144;C. Buescher 145;K. Harvick 146;C. Bell 147-149;M. Truex Jr. 150-187;K. Busch 188;M. Truex Jr. 189-293.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Martin Truex Jr. 7 times for 248 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 10 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 10 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 9 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 5 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 4 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 3 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 2 laps; Cody Ware(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Chris Buescher 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,11,8,5,4,22,12,9,24,48

Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,18,24,11,5,20,22,8,12,17

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 9 2021
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