NASCAR

Truex takes dominant Martinsville NASCAR Cup win for JGR

Martin Truex Jr became the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to book his place in the title-deciding final race by dominating at Martinsville for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Truex, who led a crushing 464 laps out of 500, moved into the lead of the race at the 0.5-mile circuit after quick work from the JGR crew at an early caution pitstop allowed the #19 Toyota Camry driver to jump his team-mate, the polesitter Denny Hamlin.

Truex scooped all three stages, fending off a late charge from William Byron to ease to his seventh Cup win of the season and in doing so became the first driver to lockdown a place at the championship race at Homestead next month.

Byron, whose race engineer Chad Knauss has nine victories with former driver Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville, ran side-by-side with playoff hopeful Ryan Blaney for most of the race, finally passing by late-on with a forceful move at Turn 4.

Byron comfortably pulled away from the pack after the move with around 40 laps to go, and the Hendrick Motorsports driver went on to score the equal-best result of his career in the Camaro.

Despite sustaining damage to the rear of his Ford Mustang early-on after a collision in the pitlane with Johnson, Brad Keselowski – who fell out of playoff contention in the last race at Kansas – put on a late-race charge to third for Penske.

Keselowski muscled past Blaney with 20 laps to go, but was too far behind to make inroads into the Truex/Byron breakaway.

Hamlin finished fourth after squeezing reigning Cup champion Joey Logano into the wall on the pit straight, which gave Logano a flat tyre and sent him into a spin.

Although Logano was able to continue, and recover to take eighth, in the pitlane post-race, the two drivers exchanged words, which lead to a scuffle where they had to be pulled apart by team members.

Blaney came home fifth ahead of Kurt Busch, with Kevin Harvick producing a quiet afternoon for Stewart-Haas in seventh.

Harvick now sits 15 points beneath the cutoff bubble, with Logano currently currently occupying the final spot to advance to Homestead in championship contention.

Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10, as Kyle Busch suffered mid-race contact with Aric Almirola that ruined his race, and ended Almirola’s event.

Almirola was unhappy with Busch regarding the incident, which all caused Johnson to retire, and suggested he would try to make it difficult for the 2015 champion to advance any further in the championship standings.

Busch was classified in 14th place, while Chase Elliott’s hopes of making it through to Homestead as a title contender were dented when he suffered rear damage early-on and eventually finished 55 laps down after his Hendrick crew repaired the car, which allowed him to re-join the race.

Results – 500 laps

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 3h29m09.s
2 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 0.373s
3 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 3.100s
4 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 3.527s
5 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 5.700s
6 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 6.173s
7 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 6.597s
8 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 7.160s
9 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 8.247s
10 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford 8.370s
11 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford 8.657s
12 Chris Buescher JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 10.274s
13 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 11.038s
14 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 11.501s
15 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford 12.056s
16 Matt DiBenedetto Leavine Family Racing Toyota 12.419s
17 Daniel Hemric Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 13.032s
18 Corey LaJoie Go FAS Racing Ford 13.405s
19 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 18.737s
20 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 1 Lap
21 Paul Menard Wood Brothers Racing Ford 1 Lap
22 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 1 Lap
23 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 1 Lap
24 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet 2 Laps
25 Matt Crafton Front Row Motorsports Ford 5 Laps
26 Landon Cassill StarCom Racing Chevrolet 5 Laps
27 B.J. McLeod Petty Ware Racing Chevrolet 6 Laps
28 J.J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 6 Laps
29 Ross Chastain Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 6 Laps
30 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 6 Laps
31 Daniel Suarez Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 12 Laps
32 Garrett Smithley Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 13 Laps
33 Reed Sorenson Premium Motorsports Chevrolet Rear Gear
34 Timmy Hill Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Transmission
35 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Suspension
36 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 55 Laps
37 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Accident
38 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Accident

Playoff standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 4102
2 Denny Hamlin 4082
3 Kyle Busch 4075
4 Joey Logano 4072
5 Kevin Harvick 4058
6 Ryan Blaney 4057
7 Kyle Larson 4048
8 Chase Elliott 4028

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