Truex takes 16th career win at Auto Club Speedway
By Matt Courson
March 18, 2018
FONTANA, Calif.—Martin Truex Jr. returned to his winning fashion and claimed victory in the final race of NASCAR Goes West tour at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.
Truex, who led for a race high 125 laps, took his first checkered flag of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018.
“I am really proud of my team and everybody here,” Truex Jr. said.
“We’ve started the season out strong. Everyone kept asking when we were going to win and we hadn’t won any stages yet.
“And I said don’t worry, we are close. We just need to figure it out a little bit. And today, what a damn hotrod. This thing was unbelievable.”
Kyle Larson finished second, his third top-10 in five races at the speedway located in Southern California.
“We were racing really hard and I was better than him in three and four and he was better than me in one and two,” Larson said. “I would side draft him down the front stretch and he would side draft me down the back stretch and I don’t know if he was just coming down to side draft me or what but we made contact and it spun his car to the right.
“So, you never want to make contact with anybody but all in all it was a good day for our DC Solar Chevrolet team.
Kyle Busch finished third, his 14th top-10 finish in 20 races at Auto Club Speedway.
Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished fourth and fifth respectively.
On lap 37, while exiting Turn 2, Kyle Larson got Kevin Harvick loose by side drafting. Harvick turned into the No. 42 machine of Larson to show displeasure and bounced off Larson and turned back into the outside wall.
“I went down to side draft and he (Larson) was coming up and we touched, and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out,” Harvick said.
Harvick’s crew was able to repair the machine, but the driver who has won the last three races was unable to get back on the lead lap, ultimately finishing 35th, nine laps down.
Martin Truex Jr. assumed the lead in Stage 1 on lap 31 and led the remaining 29 laps to earn victory in Stage 1.
On lap 108, Ryan Newman and Trevor Bayne made contact, resulting in a tire rub for Bayne in the No. 6 Ford.
Just two laps later, Trevor Bayne slammed into the outside wall in Turn 4 because of a blown tire.
“I feel like I should be hurting right now as hard as that was,” Bayne said.
“So that’s a testament to what NASCAR has done with safety because I feel like I should be looking at you funny right now and I feel great. That was a hard hit.”
On a restart with seven laps remaining in Stage 2, Truex. Jr. held of a late charge by Brad Keselowski to claim victory in Stage 2. Truex Jr. netted his second Stage victory of the season.
When the caution flag flew for David Ragan’s machine on lap 128, a miscue on pit road caused Truex Jr. to surrender the lead to fellow Toyota driver Kyle Busch.
Busch led for 28 laps until green flag pit stops, in which the reigning champion reclaimed the top spot.
The driver of the No. 78 Toyota led the final 32 laps to secure his first victory of 2018. This is the third time in Truex’s career in which he won both Stages and claimed victory in the race.
Martin Truex Jr. now has four consecutive top-five finishes and unofficially leads the point standings by nine points over Kyle Busch.
Joshua A. Hill/TRE