NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. takes home Martinsville’s first night race

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New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. overcame a penalty to earn another victory at Martinsville Speedway in NASCAR’s Wednesday event.

Martin Truex Jr. was literally lights out on his way to victory on Wednesday night at Martinsville Speedway.

The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Mayetta, NJ native led the final 130 laps of Wednesday night’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500, earning his first victory of the 2020 season at the first NASCAR Cup Series night race in Martinsville history. It’s also the first win Truex has earned under the guidance of first-year crew chief James Small.

Truex posted a fourth-place finish after the first of two 130-lap stages, but was forced to start part two toward the back of the field after failing to adhere to the pit road commitment line. While he made his way back to the front, Joey Logano took home victory in the first stage en route to leading a race-high 234 circuits. Truex made it back to 15th by the end of the second stage while Jimmie Johnson ended Logano’s near-monopoly with a pass on lap 202. Johnson would go on to earn his first stage win since last season’s July Pocono event.

As the third stage commenced, Johnson failed to break up a Team Penske party at the front, as Logano battled his fellow Fords Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski for the lead. Truex was able to get back up to the front by the time the caution flag came out at lap 327 of 500 for an incident involving Erik Jones and David Starr. He eventually passed Keselowski for the lead with 130 circuits remaining and preserved it during pit stops under caution when Quin Houff spun shortly before the 400th go-around. After retaining the lead once more after a furious restart, Truex was able to coast to victory, taking home his second consecutive victory at the short track by a 4.7-second margin.

It’s the 27th Cup Series win for Truex, breaking a tie with his mentor Dale Earnhardt Jr. Truex previously drove in the NASCAR Busch Series (now NASCAR Xfinity Series) in a car owned by Earnhardt Jr., winning two titles at that level.

Ryan Blaney finished in the runner-up spot after an eventful evening of his own. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford started on the pole via draw but found himself a lap down before the end of the first stage. He eventually was able to work his way back to the lead, winning the race off pit road at the end of stage two, but a disastrous pit stop (that included a penalty for having men over the wall too early) pushed him to the rear of the field. He recovered well enough to chase down everyone but Truex, the 2017 Cup Series champion.

Logano and Keselowski finished third and fourth, while Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action on Sunday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Dixie Vodka 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).

Race Notes

  • Wednesday’s race was the first to be run after NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate flag at races. The announcement was made hours before the green flag.
  • The No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet of Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver on the circuit, bore the “#BlackLivesMatter” insignia. Earlier this week, Wallace called for the banning of the Confederate flag on CNN. He finished fifth in the first stage and sixth after the second and wound up 11th on the evening.
  • Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet lost its crush panels in the very early stages of the race after an incident with his tires. Situated near the driver compartment and wheel wells, crush panels keep heat and fumes out of the car. Dillon was eventually removed from the car with just over 100 laps to go and treated for overheating.
  • Matt DiBenedetto finished seventh, his best finish since a runner-up spot at Las Vegas back in February.
  • In addition to Elliott finishing fifth, every Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet finished in the top ten. Johnson came home 10th, just behind Alex Bowman (sixth) and William Byron (eighth).

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags


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