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NASCAR Cup: Martin Truex Jr. dominates, wins at Kentucky

SPARTA, KY – JULY 14: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway on July 14, 2018 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Martin Truex Jr.’s post-race celebration after his latest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta on Saturday night was eventful. As he climbed from his car at the start finish line to grab the checkered flag, his car rolled, un-piloted, into the infield grass. Then, came his drive to victory lane.

“How long ago was that out there? The NASCAR official took me down the wrong turn. He disappeared. I couldn’t see anything I was overheating so bad – dang windshield was fogged up and I couldn’t see anything, but finally made it here and, man, what an awesome night.

The win that led to the celebration, his second-straight at Kentucky and his fourth win of the season to pull within a win of series leaders Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, looked like smooth sailing in comparison. He won both stages and led 174 of the 267 laps that made up the race.

“What a hell of a night this was,” Truex said. “That’s what we try to do every single week. We’ve really been working hard on these race cars week in and week out.”

Ryan Blaney finished second, Brad Keselowski was third after overcoming and early-race pit-road speeding penalty, and Busch and Harvick rounded out the top-five.

“It’s not a win. It’s a positive, that’s for sure. I hate it,” Blaney said. “I thought we were in a good spot, there, restarting fourth, and Martin struggled a little bit the first couple laps, and I thought I could get by him, but just couldn’t quite get a run on him. His car came in, and mine kind of faded a little bit, and he won the race.”

Truex was passed few times on the track during the race but never passed on the race track for the lead. All laps not led by Truex came either as a result of pit strategy or during a cycle of green-flat pit stops in the opening stage.

“You never know how these races are going to play out,” Truex said. “You never know quite what is going to happen, and we had such a strong Toyota tonight; they weren’t going to beat us. You never know how they’re going to turn out, so we just keep our heads down. We don’t get too excited. We keep working on the race car and trying to stay calm and not get ahead of ourselves, so we had to make a lot of adjustments tonight on the car and had to battle back a from a few times getting passed for the lead and coming out of the pits second or third, but this Auto-Owners Toyota was amazing tonight, so just thanks to everybody for their support and making all this possible – Toyota, TRD [Toyota Racing Development], Bass Pro, 5-Hour, Auto-Owners of course being our primary tonight and so many people make this possible. I’m just the lucky guy who gets to drive them, so pretty exciting night for us and two in a row at a race track is pretty cool, so hell yeah.”

Keselowski beat Truex off pit road with a two-tire stop after the second stage ended on lap 160. He was able to stay in front of Truex for several laps before Truex retook the lead on lap 200. Blaney followed Truex by Keselowski to take second.

“It was a good call from my crew chief, Paul Wolfe,” Keselowski said. ”We had better speed than we’ve had at the mile-and-a-halves, but not enough to run with the 78 [Truex]. He eventually got by us, there, and I thought we might have had a shot at it if we could have restarted fourth, there [after the final caution of the race], but we kind of cycled back to sixth, and it wasn’t enough to be able to make something happen, there. All in all, a decent day.

Kurt Busch took the lead from Truex, also on pit road with a two-tire stop, during the fourth and final caution of the race when J.J. Yeley blew his engine on lap 205. But on lap 223, Truex retook the lead that he would retain for the remaining laps.

After starting the race from the pole, Truex led 51 laps of the first 80-lap stage, with the only laps led coming during a lengthy green-flag pit cycle that began before lap 40 and lasted into the final 20 laps of the stage. Twenty-one of those laps not led by Truex were led by Kurt Busch.

Pitting later and having newer tires than most of the competition, Busch opted to take only two tires between the first two stages, and as a result, got off pit road first for the lead. Truex, though, retook the top spot by lap 100.

The caution for Yeley’s engine and a yellow flag on lap 110 when Alex Bowman hit the wall because of a flat right-front tire were the only two cautions of the race for on-track incidents..

Other top-10 finishers included Kurt Busch in sixth, Erik Jones seventh, Aric Amirola eighth, Kyle Larson ninth and Joey Logano in 10th.

With his ninth-place finish, Larson was the highest finisher in the Chevrolet camp. He started in the back after missing driver introductions, but he raced his way toward the front, getting into the top-10 of the running order by the end of the opening stage and into the top-five by the conclusion of stage two. He raced up to as high as the second position before battling a problem with his track bar in the final stage..

“It’s hard to say if I would have had anything to win,” Larson said. ”I drove by the No. 78 (Truex), and then, right after that, we had our track bar issue, there, and went plowing tight. Then, we had to crutch it with wedge, there, the last run, and it drove okay.”

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Posted by on July 15, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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