NASCAR Cup: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Dover
Martin Truex Kr. (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
Heading into the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Martin Truex Jr. was a three-race winner. He’s since eclipsed that number, doubling the preseason career-win tally with his third win of 2016 a couple of weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. He added a seventh-career win and fourth win on the season Sunday when he took the checkered flag in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. His win on Sunday at Dover was his third win in the last five races and his second win in the first three-race round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“We’re not messing around, I guess,” Truex said. “I don’t know. What else can you say? We are here to get it done, and golly, I’m telling you, just the best bunch of guys you could ever ask for. It’s just amazing to drive their race cars and do what we were able to do. I’m just ecstatic. So many people to thank, again. I mean, this is just unbelievable, especially here. I love this race track. It’s been considered a home track for me for a long time.”
Kyle Busch finished second, Chase Elliott was third, Brad Keselowski fourth, and Matt Kenseth finished fifth.
Truex dominated the race, posting a race-leading tally of 187 laps led in the 400-lap event. He last lost the lead to Jimmie Johnson on a restart on lap 189. Johnson led 89 laps before giving up the top spot to pit under green on lap 278, but a troublesome pit stop knocked him off the lead lap. First, Johnson had trouble getting into his pit stall. Then, the fueler had trouble getting the gas can attached to the car. The pit road issues got worse with a penalty because his jack man went over the pit wall too soon.
Johnson did lead one additional lap by staying out longer than his fellow-competitors during a green-flag cycle of stops that began on lap 356. When the cycle completed, though, he was, again, a lap down and wound up finishing seventh, the first driver a lap down.
“I think Chad (Knaus, crew chief) still questions exactly what happened, but when I was coming into my pit box, the No. 18 (Busch) and the No. 43 (Aric Almirola) were just leaving theirs, and they were directly behind my box. I had to slam on the brakes and get turned and get underneath those guys to come in, and I was pretty close to my box, so I assume that just threw the rhythm off the pit stop and somebody came off the wall early. Clearly a mistake, but it’s not one that I’ve ever had happen on the #48 team.”
After Johnson’s pit problems, Truex retook the lead on lap 278. After one final round of green-flag pit stops in the final 50 laps, he drove out to a lead of nearly half a lap.
Truex took his first lead of the race when he got by pole-sitter Keselowski on lap six. He lost the lead to Kyle Busch on lap 21, but after Busch led 102 laps, Truex retook the top spot on lap 125 and ran up front until Johnson took the lead.
Despite his issues, Johnson was still able to advance in the Chase based on his position in the points standings. Kevin Harvick also was able to advance after a troubled Dover race, advancing as a result of his win a week earlier at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Harvick was running third early in the race before suffering a broken track bar to bring out the first of four cautions on lap 34. As a result, he spent enough time in the garage to eventually go more than 40 laps down.
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, though, were eliminated from the Chase after struggling at Dover.
Larson was racing inside the top-10 early before experiencing a battery problem on lap 38. He made an uscheduled pit stop to fix the problem and was penalized when too many members of his pit crew went over the wall. His race went from bad to worse with a wreck on lap 182.
Meanwhile, McMurray fell off the pace when his engine dropped a cylinder while racing Dillon for position on the race track and in the second round of the chase. His engine blew, bringing out the final caution of the race on lap 193.
“I had a good Credit One Bank Chevy,” McMurray said. “I was really happy with the car. We’ve had good cars here the last two months. Our teams have worked really hard to get the cars better. And it’s unfortunate that both the No. 42 (Larson) and the No. 1 (McMurray) had a problem today, but it is what it is and that’s why we race.”
Larson headed into the Dover race inside the top-12, with a provisional spot to advance. Because of his issues, he was replaced by Austin Dillon among the 12 advancing drivers. Dillon finished the race in the eighth position.
“First of all, I am going to say that I give all the glory to God,” Dillon said. “We have been working hard as a team, and I have been working had as a driver to make myself better. This series is very tough, and I think the biggest thing was not giving up. We could have given up in that second practice yesterday when it was raining and drizzling. I got frustrated and just tried to calm myself and believe in what we were doing as a team. Man, we got it done. My stats didn’t really show how we have run here.”
Joining McMurray and Larson in being eliminated from the Chase were Stewart and Chris Buescher.
Joey Logano finished sixth, the final driver on the lead lap. Other top-10 finishers included Denny Hamlin in ninth and Jeff Gordon in 10th.