Martin Truex Jr. triumphed at Richmond Raceway in a one-two-three finish for Joe Gibbs Racing — which was nearly just the second top-four team sweep in the 71-year history of NASCAR until Erik Jones failed post-race inspection. Saturday’s (Sept. 21) Federated Auto Parts 400 was also a second straight chance for Truex to flex his muscle in the playoffs.
Even a spin couldn’t stop his march to the front of the field on this night.
On lap 315, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had just short-pitted and locked up his left-front tire, making enough contact with Truex to send the No. 19 Toyota into a loop. The caution came out, but Truex didn’t hit anything and his speed was not affected. He was able to fight back and get his second series short track win, both of which came at Richmond this year.
The No. 19 Toyota completed the sweep for his sixth win of the season. Truex is now the fourth driver to begin the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with two straight victories, following Greg Biffle in 2008, Tony Stewart in 2011 and Matt Kenseth in 2013.
“If anyone in the field said they wouldn’t want to be in this position, they’re lying,” Truex said. “It’s pretty incredible to be sitting here, two playoff wins in two races.”
Coming in second was Kyle Busch, who locked himself into the Round of 12 with that performance. Busch led the most laps on the night with 202 and won stage two. However, he struggled with lapped traffic over the long run compared to Truex. Truex got by Busch with 26 laps to go and battled him side-by-side for a number of laps before finally pulling away to secure the win.
Ryan Newman was the race’s big surprise, running as high as third at points before settling down to finish fifth. Kyle Larson finished sixth and Kevin Harvick clinched a spot in the Round of 12 by finishing seventh. Clint Bowyer ended up eighth while Daniel Suarez was the first non-playoff driver to crack the top 10.
Other playoff driver results included Aric Almirola in 16th, Ryan Blaney in 17th and Kurt Busch in 18th. Teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron had horrible days and finished 23rd and 24th, respectively. Jones will officially leave Richmond with just a single point and need to win at the ROVAL to advance to the Round of 12.
As per usual in short track racing, there was plenty of contact. After a lap 109 restart, Bowman went up into Austin Dillon to cause one of the night’s few wrecks. Dillon returned the favor a couple of laps later, spinning out the No. 88 Chevrolet and putting Bowman in a hole he couldn’t climb out of.
Truex won stage one, while Kyle Busch was able to hold off Truex in the latter laps of stage two to earn himself a playoff point for the next two playoff rounds.