Failing pre-race inspection pushed Martin Truex Jr. to the rear of the field. A rain delay pushed his chance to win the Gander RV 400 to Monday (May 6). But the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran would not be denied at his home race, cruising to victory in the postponed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway.
Truex spent the first stage and most of the second slowly working his way up through the field, paired with Alex Bowman. Bowman, who also had to start at the rear for the same inspection infraction, roared up to the front as the track got more rubbered in. At one point, he took the lead from teammate Chase Elliott. But Truex was able to nip Bowman at the line to take the stage two win after Bowman drove too deep into turn 1 and almost lost control.
Afterward, the race was never really in jeopardy for the driver from nearby New Jersey. Truex was able to maintain his lead, then drove away from the rest of the field after green flag pit stops cycled through later on in the run. Truex ended up winning by nine-and-a-half seconds as the last 130 laps of the race went caution free.
It was Truex’s 21st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and his second of the season.
It was hard for drivers to pass, with most of the leaders sticking on the bottom groove much of the day. Clean air, then became a major advantage for whomever was the race leader. The car up front would typically build a second to two-second lead on second place, then quickly lose that lead almost as soon as they came up behind lapped cars.
Bowman finished second after a great race, backing up his runner-up finish from last week. Kyle Larson got a much-needed third after a terrible start to the season while Kevin Harvick ran fourth. Pole sitter Elliott was fifth after leading the most laps of his Cup career and the most of the race with 146.
Only 11 drivers finished on the lead lap thanks to the long green-flag run that ended the race. Points leader Kyle Busch was able to maintain both his lead and his consecutive top-10 finish streak to begin the season. With top-10 finishes in 11 of 11 Cup races so far this season, Busch is now tied with Morgan Shepherd and his 1990 campaign for the longest such streak to start the season in NASCAR’s modern era.
The only caution of the final stage came on lap 264, when Denny Hamlin’s right rear tire blew. Hamlin, who was already having a bad day and was just barely on the lead lap for much of it, couldn’t get down to the narrow pit road entrance due to traffic. He had to self-spin in turn 2 on the next lap to cause a caution en route to finishing 21st, three laps down.
To make matters worse, Hamlin was taken away on a stretcher and tended to in the infield care center after the event due to dehydration.
Outside of green flag pit stops cycling through, between 81-53 laps to go, Truex never gave up the lead after winning stage two.
Elliott dominated the initial portions of the race, getting as high as a three-and-a-half-second lead at one point before losing time due to lapped traffic. On lap 105, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went hard into the wall after blowing a right front tire. During the ensuring pit stops, Logano and William Byron took two tires while all the other lead-lap drivers elected to take four.
On the restart, with 10 to go in the stage, Logano was able to hold off teammate Brad Keselowski before another caution came out for a spinning Quin Houff. NASCAR was able to get back green with just a lap remaining in the stage, where Logano held Keselowski off again to win.
This stage was clean, with no cautions between the green flag to start and its conclusion. Keselowski took off with the lead after Logano was forced to pit. Logano was stuck in traffic the rest of the day and never rose higher than seventh, which is where he finished at the end of the race.
Elliott eventually was able to get around Keselowski by pitting a lap sooner during green flag pit stops. He took the lead and stayed there until Bowman got around him on lap 224. But a surging Truex would not be denied, sneaking by Bowman on that thrilling final lap to take stage two en route to victory.