Martin Truex Jr. Takes Checkered Flag at Martinsville
NASCAR continued to roll on after the COVID-19 pandemic pause as they ran their seventh race since coming out of the pause last month when they began at Darlington. Since that point, we’ve seen two races at Darlington, a pair at Charlotte, including the Coca-Cola 600, along with races at Bristol Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. That set up for Wednesday’s race at Martinsville Speedway as the Blu Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 took place in the final race for the time being on the circuit without fans in attendance. Beginning Sunday and for the next couple of races at least, there will be some fans in the grandstands when races take place.
On Wednesday night, it was Martin Truex Jr. finding Victory Lane for the first time this season as he rolled to an easy 4.705-second win over Ryan Blaney at Martinsville. Brad Keselowski finished third with Joey Logano and Chase Elliott rounding out the top five of the race. It marked Truex Jr.’s second straight victory at Martinsville as he claimed the First Data 500 on October 27, 2019 in a race that he dominated, leading 464 of the 500 laps in that one. That continued Truex Jr.’s strong track record at the paperclip track as he logged his sixth straight top-10 finish at the track. During that span, he has two wins and five runs in the top four.
Truex Jr. led just one lap over the first nearly three-quarters of the race but took the lead on lap 370. He led the rest of the way, covering 131 laps en route to the victory. Only eight drivers led in the race with 14 lead changes among the group in the face. Logano led a race-high 234 laps followed by Truex Jr. with 132. Jimmie Johnson, who finished 10th, led 70 laps while Blaney held the lead in 34 and Aric Almirola was in front for 19 laps. Unfortunately for Almirola, he ended up with battery problems and completed only 476 laps en route to a 33rd-place finish. Keselowski (third) and Corey LaJoie (18th) each led five laps while Elliott held the lead for one lap.
Logano, Johnson, Bubba Wallace, Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and William Byron all finished in the top 10 of the first two stages of the race. In the first stage, Logano cruised to an easy victory while Johnson took the second stage. He led 70 laps in the stage, which was more than he had led in any race dating back to 2017. Logano (fourth), Johnson (10th), Elliott (fifth), Kurt Busch (ninth) and Byron (eighth) each finished in the top 10 of the first two stages in the race and when the checkered flag came down. Wallace finished 11th while Harvick ended up with a 15th-place showing to end up out of the top 10 for just the second time in 11 races this year.
It wasn’t as successful on the props front as it was for Sunday’s run at Atlanta. We did hit on Blaney finishing in the top-three as he logged a second-place finish to continue his strong run of late. That marked his fourth top-four finish in the last five races and was a solid cash at +275. While we backed Keselowski to win, which failed to come in, he did finish in the top-three with his third-place showing. Truex Jr. had a tough time getting to the lead in the first near three-quarters of the race as he dropped as far back as 31st, before rallying to earn the win by leading the final 131 laps. The big disappointment was Denny Hamlin, who has five victories on the track but sputtered to a 24th-place showing.
NASCAR rolls on with the Dixie Vodka 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday afternoon. The race gets underway at 3:30 pm ET with television coverage provided by FOX. There will be 1,000 service members representing the Homestead Air Reserve Base and U.S. Southern Command in Doral in attendance, marking the first time that fans will be in the grandstands since the March 8 race in Phoenix. Going into that race, Harvick owns a 28-point lead over Logano in the Cup Series point standings. Elliott (47 points back), Truex Jr. (71 points back) and Keselowski (72 points behind) round out the top five of the standings.