Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: So Close, Yet So Far for Martin Truex Jr. – Kyle Busch scored his third-straight win at Richmond Raceway, joining Kevin Harvick to account for six victories in nine races this season. But perhaps what was more surprising was that it was Martin Truex Jr. who was cruising his way toward Victory Lane as the laps wound down.
Normally one to struggle on the short tracks, the driver of the No. 78 led a race-high 128 laps and nearly scored his second win of the season Saturday night. But a late-race flurry of cautions tightened up the field and set off a string of trips down pit road that ultimately ended Truex’s shot at Victory Lane.
Not only did Truex lose the lead during one of those late-race pit stops, he also lost any hope of racing for the win when the crew needed an extra crank on the jack to get the left side tires off of the car. The extra few seconds spent on the final stop mired Truex deep in the top 10 and he was left to settle for a seventh-place finish.
“Pretty disappointed that we didn’t get at least a chance,” Truex said after the race. “I don’t know what we have to do to win one of these short-tracks and get everything to go the way we need it to. Tonight we beat ourselves, so that’s unfortunate. The guys did a really good job with the race car. Frustrated, but proud of everyone for the effort and hopefully we get them next week.”
That first career win on a short track was so close yet is still so far away. However, one thing Truex proved in his strong run Saturday night was that he can be a threat on tracks shorter than one mile in length. It’s just a matter of sealing the deal when the checkered flag flies. But that opportunity will have to wait now until August when the series returns to Bristol. – Beth Lunkenheimer
XFINITY Series: Christopher Bell Edges Noah Gragson for Victory – Friday’s ToyotaCare 250 was a barn-burner between the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson. Bell was looking for his first victory of the season, while Gragson impressed the hell out of everyone in his first XFINITY start.
The final 80 laps of the race were run under the green flag, much like most of the race. While Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler each picked up stage wins, the final stage became the JGR show, as Bell and Gragson scooted away from the field, to duke it out between the two of them.
Gragson caught Bell with less than 20 laps to go, getting into the rear of the No. 20 Toyota ever so slightly. But it looked as though Gragson wore the rear tires off his racecar, as Bell was able to edge away at the end, picking up his first victory of 2018.
“I thought Noah did a phenomenal job,” Kyle Busch said following his victory on Saturday. “I was really impressed with his run in second. I wasn’t sure that he would run that well. We kind of mentioned a few weeks ago about he’s kind of stuck fifth to eighth in the truck.”
Heading to Talladega Superspeedway, Sadler remains the championship leader by 29 points over Bell. Daytona winner Tyler Reddick is in third, with Hemric and Justin Allgaier rounding out the top five. – Dustin Albino
ARCA: Christian Eckes Snags First Career Win – Chandler Smith stole headlines at Salem all weekend. Natalie Decker has been stealing headlines all season even before winning the pole at Daytona. But on Sunday in southern Indiana, it was the other Venturini car that found its way to Victory Lane.
Christian Eckes, who incrementally improved the No. 15 Toyota from a short run car to a front-runner, took the lead from his teammate Smith on pit road after a lap 147 caution and proceeded to weather challenge after challenge from Smith to score his first career ARCA win. Smith pounded the Turn 1 wall on the final lap (he would report to the team after the race that his brakes failed) and failed to finish. Zane Smith, Sheldon Creed, Josh Berry and Chase Purdy rounded out the top five. – Bryan Davis Keith
Sports Cars: The WEC Finds a New Home on Velocity – Discovery Networks announced last week it has signed a multi-year deal that will see Velocity serve as the exclusive home in the U.S. and Canada for the FIA World Endurance Championship. The coverage moves to Velocity after multiple years on FOX Sports 1 and 2. However, just because the races are on a network that will cater to the series doesn’t mean you’ll get full coverage on television.
For Sebring and the two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans that are part of the Super Series, you’ll get those races flag-to-flag on Velocity (soon to become the Motor Trend Network). The other six races will have live coverage of the first and last hours of the race on television. The remaining four hours, plus practice and qualifying will air on either the Motor Trend app or on MotorTrend.com. For Sebring and Le Mans, there will be additional live feeds available on the Motor Trend app.
That coverage is not free. It costs either $4.99 a month, $49.99 for one year, or $89.99 for two years. The coverage available via the Motor Trend service should be commercial-free.
Coverage of the 2018 – 19 FIA World Endurance Championship will begin on Thursday, May 3 with the first practice at 6 a.m. ET. The season-opening 6 Hours of Spa-Francochamps will go green on Saturday, May 5 at 8:30 a.m. ET on Velocity. – Phil Allaway
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