Truex Jr. survives overtime finish, captures first career win in the “Bluegrass State”
By Matt Courson
July 8, 2017
SPARTA, Ky.— Martin Truex Jr. dominated Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, netting his 10th career win in NASCAR’s premier series.
Truex Jr. won each of the three stages in the event and led the most laps(earning maximum points) en route to his third victory of the season, tying Jimmie Johnson for the most wins this season.
The driver of the No. 78 Toyota’s win comes after back-to-back finishes outside the top-30 at Sonoma and last week at Daytona International Speedway.
“Yeah, so it feels good to have those bonus points,” said Truex Jr., who now has 28 playoff points. “We’re going to try to get as many as we can. We know they’re going to be important. We could have used a handful of them last year to get through Talladega, so we'll try to keep racking them up.”
STAGE ONE (LAPS 1-80)
Kyle Busch led the field to the green flag for the third time this season, leading the opening 28 laps.
Due to overnight rain in the area, NASCAR scheduled a competition caution that flew on lap 30.
Busch dominated the first half of the stage, leading 66 laps.
Martin Truex Jr. chased down and passed Busch on lap 68, and led the remaining 13 laps. Truex went on to win stage one, his 12th stage victory of the year.
Kyle Larson started in the rear of the field due to an inspection issue during qualifying on Friday. Larson started 40th and finished the first stage inside the top three.
STAGE TWO (LAPS 81-160)
During pit stops, Kyle Larson was issued a penalty for speeding, which halted his run to the top position. He would go on to restart 19th.
On the restart, Brad Keselowski got loose and spun in Turn 3. Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer had nowhere to go, and also got collected in the incident that brought out the third caution.
The damage to Johnson and Keselowski was too extensive to continue the race, and both went behind the wall.
Johnson suffered his third DNF season, while Keselowski netted back-to-back finishes outside of the top 30.
Two laps after the restart, Kasey Kahne got into the back of Trevor Bayne, and Kahne slammed into the Turn 2 wall. Like teammate Jimmie Johnson, the damage to the No. 5 Mountain Dew Chevrolet was too extensive to continue the event. Kahne would ultimately finish 38th.
Trevor Bayne’s day didn’t get much better, because the No. 6 Ford spun off Turn 4 due to damage received in the wreck with Kahne. Bayne would also go behind the wall, finishing 37th.
Kyle Busch led the field to the green flag yet again on lap 116, but Busch did not get too far ahead, as Truex Jr. passed him on lap 134.
The caution flag waved for the sixth time on lap 1ap 136, as Joey Gase experienced a flat tire and as a result, shot into the wall. Gase immediately took the car behind the wall. Gase also failed to finish the XFINITY race earlier Saturday afternoon due to a transmission failure.
Truex Jr. led the remaining laps in the second stage, and captured another stage win. He has now accumulated 28 playoff points that will carry all the way over to Homestead-Miami Speedway.
STAGE THREE (LAPS 160-274)
Differing strategies during pit stops resulted in Joey Logano leading the field to the green flag.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the third stage where someone other than Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Busch had led at least one lap.
Logano stayed out on the race track and led seven laps, but was unable to hold off a hard charging Martin Truex Jr.
Despite staying out on the track on older tires, Logano managed to hold on to second place for 36 laps before eventually pitting for four fresh tires. Logano did not get the caution he had hoped for.
With two laps remaining, the engine on board the No. 41 machine driven by Kurt Busch expired, bringing out the eighth caution of the evening, sending the race into overtime for the first time ever at Kentucky Speedway.
Truex stayed out on the race track during pit stops, while the field came down to pit road. There were at least ten cars wedged in between second place Kyle Larson and the leader Martin Truex Jr. This allowed the field to make a last second decision after seeing the decision the No. 78 made.
Truex brought the field to the green flag and was leading at the time of caution when the No. 20 car slipped out of the groove and bounced off the Turn 4 wall, collecting rookie Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon.
This win marks Martin Truex Jr.’s first win and top five at Kentucky Speedway in seven starts.
Truex Jr. now has seven wins on intermediate race tracks.
Truex led for 152 laps of the event’s 267. Truex also led for over 100 laps in his victories earlier this season at Kansas and Las Vegas.
The New Jersey native has now accumulated 28 playoff points.
Kyle Larson leads Martin Truex Jr. by one point.
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