In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, it was only appropriate for the race winner, Martin Truex, Jr., to pounce like a ninja to grab the victory.
On an overtime restart with two laps to go, Truex, who restarted fourth, ripped around the outside of Kasey Kahne and Ryan Blaney to win at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time of his Sprint Cup Series career.
More importantly, Truex’s third win of 2016 clinches his way into the Round of 12, which kicks off in three weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he stands as the defending winner.
“Darlington all over again, right,” said Truex, who won two weeks ago in the Southern 500. “The racing gods don’t want us leading too much, they got to make it difficult on us.”
Referring to a flat tire in the early going, Truex pitted from the lead before losing a lap to race leader Jimmie Johnson. Receiving the free pass to get back on the lead lap following a lap-119 caution, Truex slowly made his way back inside the top 5.
“This is the way we want to start it off,” he said. “We’re lucky it happened early. We had an awesome racecar all day. [Kevin] Harvick ran into us, bent our fender on purpose. We came back from that.”
Don’t think it was the Truex Train on Sunday, however, as it was Chase Elliott’s race to lose in the final 80 laps. Leading Truex by more than a second consistently, a caution with five laps remaining took the win away from the No. 24.
“Nothing is yours until it’s over,” Elliott said. “We know these races don’t go green that long. We see more cautions come out at the end of these races than we do not. That’s just part of it.”
“Disappointment” is a hard word to recap Hendrick Motorsports’ day in Chicagoland. With another near-win for Elliott, teammate Jimmie Johnson led 118 laps, showing dominating pace not seen in 2016. Additionally, both Kahne and Alex Bowman were regular faces in the top 10.
For Johnson, a speeding penalty with 34 to go ending his chance at the win. Coming home 12th, Johnson was visibly embarrassed to make a costly mistake on pit road.
“I just can’t believe I had trouble down there exiting the pits,” Johnson said. “I’m going to ram my head through a wall real quick and maybe I’ll feel better.”
If there was a day where a pit road penalty would cause some pain, it would be Sunday’s 400-miler. In a race that saw only four cautions, Chasers like Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth also had suffered pit road penalties, damaging their days in the Chicago sun.
For Kevin Harvick, an untimely caution on lap 50 trapped the No. 4 Chevrolet one lap down. Despite driving from 39th to the top 10 in the opening 20 laps, Harvick was unable to get back on the lead lap, finishing 20th.
On the positive side of the Chase Grid, Joey Logano came home second after running in the top 5 throughout the day. Topped his Ford mates in the top 5 with Blaney and Brad Keselowski finishing fourth and fifth, the No. 22 driver earned his third runner-up result of 2016.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this No. 22 team,” Logano said. “We brought a fast racecar, awesome pit stops and we executed well all day to maximize our day and that’s what it’s all about.”
Completing the top 10 was Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Alex Bowman, who grabs his first Sprint Cup Series top 10 after leading six laps in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Looking at the Chase Grid, 15 of the 16 Chasers finished in the top 20, with Chris Buescher coming home 28th. After Chicagoland, the bottom four are Austin Dillon, Harvick, Kyle Larson and Buescher.
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