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NASCAR Cup: Martin Truex Jr. wins after dominant performance at Kentucky

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway after winning the Quaker State 400 on July 8, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway after winning the Quaker State 400 on July 8, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Martin Truex Jr. claimed his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of 2017 and surpassed the 1000 laps-led mark for the season Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with his dominating win of the Quaker State 400 after leading 152 laps. He also claimed his 12th and 13th stage wins of the season.

Kyle Larson finished second after racing from the back to the front twice. He started in the back after failing to make a qualifying attempt Friday because of an issue getting through pre-qualifying inspection. He race up into the top-three by the end of the 80-lap first stage, but he, along with Denny Hamlin, was assessed a speeding penalty and had to drive back up through the field, again.

“Yeah, I sped on pit road there early,” Larson said. ”At the end of that first stage, so it felt very similar to Texas earlier this year. Didn’t get to qualify, had a pit road penalty at the end of the first stage.  Went from the back to the front and then we had scuffs on one run and got the balance off pretty bad but were able to put stickers on and charge back to the front.  The Target Chevy was good.  Truex, though, never got to see him that last run; he was upwards of 15 seconds ahead of us.  That was pretty crazy.  He has definitely been the fastest car all year.  So, got some work to do, but if we can keep chasing him, I think we can beat him.”

When blown engine for Kurt Busch resulted in a late-race caution that sent the race into overtime, Truex stayed out while everyone else pitted. Kyle Busch started next to him on the front row, but Larson pushed Truex out in front of Busch and took second for himself. Having difficulty getting through speedy dry laid down during the caution, Busch slipped back to fifth by the finish. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin also got by him on the restart to finish third and fourth.

“I thought we were dead. I thought we were done,” Truex said. “It’s just – this is completely unbelievable. I’m so excited to win here. It felt like we had a shot last year, and it got away from us on fuel mileage and just wanted to win here so so bad after that. This is sweet redemption. I got to say hi to Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) back home. She didn’t make it this weekend, so I love you babe. And all these awesome fans, thank you guys so much for coming out. What an awesome crowd. I hope they enjoyed it and that was a whole lot of fun. “

The frontrunners got past the overtime line on the final restart before a wreck that involved Matt Kenseth, Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez brought out the yellow one final time, ending the race.

In post-race lug nut inspection, Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had one lug nut missing or not properly secured.

Prior to the yellow flag for Kurt Busch’s expired engine, Truex had built up a 16-second lead over Larson. After a cycle of green-flag pit stops concluded with about 40 laps remaining, Truex had an 11-second lead on Kyle Busch. With under 23 laps remaining, Larson passed Busch for second, but he was 13 seconds behind Truex.

By the end of the race, only nine cars were on the lead lap. Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick finished sixth through ninth. Ryan Blaney was the first driver one lap down in 10th.

“You try to lap everybody you can, just so they don’t come back and beat you on tires at the end for some crazy strategy,” Truex said. “For us tonight, the car was just so good. I got so worried that when that caution came out with two to go that we were going to be in trouble. I’m just glad I was able to hold on for these guys and everybody on this team that put so much effort into this and into what we do and gives me such awesome race cars to drive. Glad I could hold up my end of the deal and we’re going to celebrate a little bit here tonight.”

Kyle Busch was the only driver other than Truex to lead a significant number of laps, running up front for 112 laps after starting from the pole. Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were the only other two drivers who led laps, combining to lead 10. In each of the first two 80-lap stages, Busch would be the front-runner early, giving way to Truex late in the stage. In the first stage, Truex took the top spot from Busch on lap 68. In the second stage, Truex surpassed Busch on lap 134.

In the final stage that made up most of the second half of the race, though, Truex led most of the way, with the exception of a few laps during the cycle of green-flag stops.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on July 9, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,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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