Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Late Caution Derails Truex’s Dominating Run at Richmond

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

With the laps ticking away in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Martin Truex, Jr. would be ending the night in victory lane, but in the NASCAR Cup Series, it’s never over until it’s over.

The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had led a commanding 228 laps and carried a comfortable lead into the final laps of regulation when the caution flag flew for a spin by Kyle Larson with just two laps remaining, beginning the downfall of Truex’s night.

After coming down pit road to the attention of his crew, he fell from the lead to second, lining up for the overtime restart alongside his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.

Then things get a bit interesting.

As the two drivers were rolling toward the restart zone, Hamlin appeared to get the jump on Truex before crossing the line that demarcates the start of the zone, forcing Truex to have to play catch-up from the drop of the green flag.

Despite the disadvantage, Truex fought valiantly against Hamlin through Turn 1 and 2 before Hamlin pulled clear down the backstretch and into Turn 3. Truex was then left to try and fend off the cars behind him, including Joey Logano and Larson.

He would eventually fall to fourth place at the finish after he and Larson traded paint on the last lap, with Truex getting put into the outside wall after taking the checkered flag.

Noticeably frustrated at having had the race win taken away from him, Truex even chased down and ran into the back of Hamlin’s car as he began to celebrate the victory at his home track.

“It’s unfortunate,” Truex said. “Unfortunately, this has happened to be a few times over the years. We were in a great spot and had a great Auto-Owners Toyota Camry all night long. The guys did a really good job all night.

“We got beat out of the pits and then – I don’t know. He jumped the start and then used me up into turn one. Definitely sucks, but a good solid day and a car capable of winning, so we will just have to come back next week and try to get them then.”

“I think he was just mad,” Larson said of the extracurriculars between himself and Truex. “Like, he was mad that the 11 used him up on the restart. That’s probably where it really started from. Then the 22 got to his inside one and two. I got in behind the 22. He just turned left across my nose, had me up on the apron off of two.

“I don’t know if he thought I just piled it in there. Then he door-slammed me down the middle of the backstretch. I figured in three and four I was going to use him up a little bit.

“I think he is more mad at Denny, but I was the closest one to take his anger out on. I haven’t seen a replay either. I’m guessing the replay looks the way I kind of saw one and two, and then he’ll realize that and probably be all right.

“Martin is probably the most respected guy in the garage area. So I was surprised when he turned left on me down the backstretch after the checkered.

“It’s all good. I hope he doesn’t have any hard feelings to me because I definitely don’t towards him. Like I said, I got a lot of respect for him.”

Though he may have lost the battle, Truex is still winning the war as he currently holds the points lead over Larson as the Cup Series heads to Martinsville next weekend for another round of short track racing.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.