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Late-race issues take 1-2 in 2021 championship out of Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix

AVONDALE, ARIZ. — As Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway neared the final 70 laps, the top two drivers in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series championship already turned their final lap.

Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. finished 34th and 35th after falling out of the race before the final 70 laps of Sunday’s race.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion had a mechanical issue that took him out on Lap 239.

“It was a broken valve spring,” Larson said. “The engine started laying down. Umfortunately, that’s just a part of racing.”

Video: Jonathan Fjeld/TRE

Martin Truex Jr. fell out of the race after completing 219 of 312 laps. Truex Jr. cut a right-front tire exiting turn two and hit the outside wall hard on Lap 222.

“We had been getting really loose all day on the longer runs. I was just out there trying to take care of it, and we gained a few spots on the restart and I was just trying to take care of the rear tires,” Truex Jr. said. “Coming off of turn two there, I’m kind of neutral-free and then all of a sudden it shot straight into the fence. I cut a right front down running up there in the glue or something.”

Prior to the wreck, Truex Jr. battled with Joey Logano as they raced near the top 10 for much of the race.

Truex Jr. sits 11th in the championship points, 27 points behind leader Joey Logano and 16 points ahead of 17th-place Bubba Wallace.

Larson is 4th in points — 10 behind Logano — and is virtually locked into the playoffs with his Feb. 27 win at Auto Club Speedway.

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