Martin Truex Jr.’s late-race pass of teammate Denny Hamlin key in Martinsville win

Alex Andrejev
·6 min read

Rain postponed NASCAR’s original Saturday night racing plans, but the Cup Series wrapped at Martinsville under the lights anyway on Sunday.

Despite Denny Hamlin’s best efforts to fend off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr. swiped the lead with 15 laps left to win his second race of the season, outdistancing Hamlin and runner-up Chase Elliott for the checkered flag.

“For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down,” Truex said after the race.

Truex scores Martinsville win as Hamlin’s lead fades

Truex held a two second lead over the field at the flag to win his third race at the short-track in Ridgeway, Virginia, in three years. He also won last year’s Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500.

Hamlin led a race-high 276 laps of the 500-lap event, but his lead faded in the closing laps, and Elliott passed him for second place before the checkered flag. Hamlin finished in third.

“We had a really good short-run car. We just didn’t have a good long-run car,” Hamlin said.

He described after the race how his No. 11 Toyota team has been close to winning races but hasn’t demonstrated the early dominance the group had last year. Strong restarts still kept Hamlin out front following nine cautions peppered throughout the final stage (17 cautions total). He lost the first-place spot to Truex coming off pit road in the final 50 laps, but he quickly regained the position after the green flag. But as the race wore on, Hamlin’s car tightened up and slowed at the finish.

“We’ve just been next-best,” Hamlin said, adding that his team’s plan this week is to consult with the No. 19 team about their setups based on their recent success.

Truex won at Phoenix earlier this season and he becomes the first repeat winner this year after a string of different winners characterized the opening races of 2021. He said he feels “really good” about his team and the group’s prospects to contend for a championship this season.

Blaney sweeps stages

Atlanta race winner Ryan Blaney dominated early laps Sunday before Hamlin controlled the final stage. Blaney led 156 laps and swept both stages of the race, often battling Hamlin for the top spot. Blaney started Sunday in third place behind Hamlin in first but was able to complete his pass on Lap 75 and held the lead through the Stage 1 finish.

Hamlin regained the lead early in the second stage, but Blaney was back to first place by Lap 175 and the two drivers dueled through the second-stage finish, racing side-by-side, but Blaney held onto his advantage to clinch another stage win.

Differing pit strategy then put Blaney, who pitted, behind Hamlin, who stayed out to inherit the lead. The decision by the No. 11 team paid off after a caution flew shortly afterward and Hamlin took on new tires. He maintained the lead with strong restarts after the many cautions, which included “The Big One” on Lap 387 that red-flagged the race.

The Paperclip delivers drama

A Talladega-style crash — complete with ballooning flames — evolved Sunday at the paperclip-shaped short-track. Contact between Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher mid-pack forced a major pileup, “The Big One,” in Turn 2 during the final stage. Busch’s car went for a spin and emerged shredded on the right side, but he remained in the race. Others didn’t fare as well.

Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Michael McDowell and Daniel Suárez were among the drivers involved in the 15-car pileup, and they exited the event with heavy damage. Suárez nearly completed the loop around the track before his No. 99 Chevrolet erupted in smoke. He exited his flaming vehicle in Turn 1, intent to make his displeasure with a certain driver known, but that driver wasn’t anyone involved in the wreck.

Suárez threw a water bottle at the passing car of William Byron. He later said that he disliked how Byron shoved him on the track to contribute to him falling back and into the mess of crashing cars.

“I race people the way they race me,” Suárez told PRN. “He’ll have one coming.”

As for the accident itself, Suárez said there was nothing he could do but slam on the brakes as the pileup occurred. Others agreed it was tough to miss hitting anyone in the close quarters.

“That’s just part of the short-track deal,” Keselowski said.

The Cup Series returns to another short track at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia, next Sunday at 3 p.m., where more drama is likely to ensue.

Race results

Pos.

Car No.

Driver

Time behind

Best time

Best speed

1

19

Martin Truex Jr.

--

20.107

94.176

2

9

Chase Elliott

1.972

20.071

94.345

3

11

Denny Hamlin

2.364

19.916

95.079

4

24

William Byron

4.984

19.996

94.699

5

5

Kyle Larson

6.229

20.355

93.029

6

22

Joey Logano

6.728

20.15

93.975

7

20

Christopher Bell

7.265

20.154

93.957

8

8

Tyler Reddick

7.593

20.427

92.701

9

4

Kevin Harvick

7.815

20.272

93.41

10

18

Kyle Busch

8.183

20.181

93.831

11

12

Ryan Blaney

9.585

20.081

94.298

12

21

Matt DiBenedetto

13.78

20.457

92.565

13

17

Chris Buescher

14.501

20.405

92.801

14

3

Austin Dillon

15.13

20.378

92.924

15

47

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

16.378

20.509

92.33

16

23

Bubba Wallace

17.377

20.323

93.175

17

42

Ross Chastain

17.678

20.274

93.4

18

41

Cole Custer

17.87

20.465

92.529

19

6

Ryan Newman

-1

20.474

92.488

20

10

Aric Almirola

-1

20.303

93.267

21

1

Kurt Busch

-2

20.345

93.074

22

15

James Davison

-6

20.505

92.348

23

52

Josh Bilicki

-7

20.635

91.766

24

0

Quin Houff

-7

20.829

90.912

25

53

JJ Yeley(i)

-8

20.674

91.593

26

38

Anthony Alfredo #

-8

20.542

92.182

27

14

Chase Briscoe #

-9

20.464

92.533

28

51

Cody Ware(i)

-10

20.627

91.802

29

78

BJ McLeod(i)

-22

20.61

91.878

30

43

Erik Jones

-97

20.508

92.335

31

34

Michael McDowell

-113

20.5

92.371

32

99

Daniel Suárez

-114

20.393

92.855

33

2

Brad Keselowski

-115

20.123

94.101

34

48

Alex Bowman

-116

20.348

93.061

35

77

Justin Haley(i)

-117

20.418

92.742

36

37

* Ryan Preece

-118

20.229

93.608

37

7

Corey LaJoie

-126

20.313

93.221