NASCAR: NJ native Martin Truex Jr. wins at Phoenix

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 14: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Instacart 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 14, 2021 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr. won the NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway, which will also host the season finale in February.

A strong restart with 25 laps to go allowed Martin Truex Jr. to take home a victory at the Instacart 500 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday afternoon. Phoenix will also host the season finale in November. His No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota recovered from an early brush with the wall to visit victory lane for the first time since the visit to Martinsville last June (a 29-race drought).

Truex, a Mayetta Township, NJ native, becomes the fifth different race-winner this season, earning the 28th victory of his Cup Series career. Joey Logano, who led a race-best 143 laps, came home second while Denny Hamlin finished third. Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski and defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.

“Huge boost, huge confidence,” Truex said of the win. “If we would have come here last year in the final four, I would have been not very confident. Last year we struggled here for some reason. It’s never been our greatest track, I’ll say that. It’s always been just okay. I’ve never come here with a really warm, fuzzy feeling that we’re going to go there and win, we’re going to go there and be really, really strong and lead laps.”

“That was definitely a nice surprise today. Really just hats off to all the guys for the hard work. Everybody that builds the cars, puts in all the effort back at JGR, Toyota.”

The victory was of a come-from-behind effort for Truex, who made contact with the wall on lap 12 of 312 while battling Ryan Blaney for position in the top five. Truex was thus relegated to a 17th-place finish at the end of the first 75-lap stage (won by Blaney) but recovered well enough to finish in the runner-up slot behind Logano after the second.

Strong adjustments on pit stops, headed by crew chief James Small, allowed the No. 19 to get back into contention. This marks Small’s second season and second victory atop Truex’s pit box, coming home seventh last year.

“We worked really hard. We’ve got a great team,” Truex said of his No. 19 crew. “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.”

Truex first took the lead on lap 224, ending the dominance of Logano. The No. 22 Team Penske Ford dominated for a majority of the afternoon, leading a race-high 143 laps after finishing no worse than 10th in the last four visits to Phoenix. Logano had also won the previous spring race at Phoenix last March, the last race held prior to the coronavirus-induced pause.

Logano gained back the lead after a series of strong pit stops. Truex gained a shot at the win during one final yellow flag at lap 283, when his JGR teammate Kyle Busch spun after contact with Ross Chastain. Having just passed Keselowski for second before the yellow, Truex started next to Logano on what became the final restart and drove to his first win of the season. He became the fifth different winner in five Cup events this year. It also marks his first career win at Phoenix after a runner-up finish in 2019.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next Sunday for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET, Fox).

Race Notes

  • During his postrace comments, Truex confirmed that he would run the Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt incarnation. Several drivers will join him as the Cup Series prepares to go dirt racing for the first time in over five decades. Truex will drive a Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports.


  • Kyle Larson, last week’s winner at Las Vegas, overcame starting at the rear of the field and two speeding penalties to finish seventh.


  • All three Team Penske cars finished in the top ten for the second consecutive weeks, as Blaney brought the No. 12 Ford home 10th.


  • Among those who failed to finish were Anthony Alfredo and Cody Ware, each of whom were involved in an accident on lap 89. Timmy Hill and Josh Bilicki likewise left early due to mechanical issues.

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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags