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In a Nutshell: Martin Truex Jr. made his way to the front early, swept both stages and cruised to victory in the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt in Bristol on Monday (March 29). The Cup Series driver jumped in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota Tundra for his first Camping World Truck Series race in nearly 15 years, starting — appropriately — 15th and leading 105 total circuits in a caution-filled, chaotic event.
A total of 12 interruptions slowed the race, with nearly 40% of the distance run under caution. With the win, Truex became the 36th driver in NASCAR history to score a win in each of the sport’s top three divisions. The Monday afternoon race was postponed nearly two full days due to poor track conditions on Saturday, when the series was supposed to have heat races and the main event, and then again from its rescheduled Sunday night slot.
“It’s unbelievable, really,” Truex said after doing a burnout that, rather than billowing smoke, kicked up a small yet violent sandstorm. “I guess they had to put dirt on Bristol to get me back to victory lane here. It’s been a long time. That was a blast, I’m still really surprised.
“I wanted to run this race so I could get more experience for the Cup car,” he added. “We got out there in practice and it just felt really good and I was having a lot of fun, so I just kept trying to work with the guys and tell them what I needed … that was a blast. I kept thinking, ‘What’s gonna happen next? Am I gonna get a flat tire or something stupid?’ This [No.] 51 is pretty much used to being in victory lane, so a lot of pressure there, but glad we could get it done.”
The 150-lap race was also a preview of what was to come in the Cup Series race just hours later, in which Truex also competed and led 126 of 250 laps. All told, he was out front for 231 of the day’s 400 circuits.
The Win That Could’ve Been
It’s hard to pinpoint a driver that sticks out as the best of the rest, but runner-up Ben Rhodes is the most likely qualifier here. He started closing, if only slightly, on Truex in the closing laps, but couldn’t make up more than a few tenths as Truex won by 1.149 seconds.
Rhodes did cut the gap between himself and points leader John Hunter Nemechek significantly and led three laps during the race. Also out front was Sheldon Creed, who went to the point early and led from the second lap all the way to lap 39, but surrendered to Truex before the end of stage one and continued to slide back into the clutches of the field. Creed finished 16th.
- Shoutout to some drivers with solid runs. Raphaël Lessard finished a season-best third, Parker Kligerman came home eighth and Austin Wayne Self 10th. Todd Gilliland had a fast truck as well, finishing fourth.
- Disappointment reigned for a number of drivers in the field with extensive dirt experience. Stewart Friesen ran up front very early on but his No. 52 faded, resulting in the veteran stuck midpack and finishing 12th. Kyle Larson was caught up in a mid-race incident and was “t-bohned” by Danny Bohn, splitting the door panel sheet metal on his Niece Motorsports entry and ending his day.
- John Hunter Nemechek‘s run came to an end early when Matt Crafton tagged the polesitter in the corner, sending Nemechek spinning to the top of the track. Despite avoiding the wall and a relatively unscathed truck, Derek Kraus slid in late and smashed into Nemechek, which ended both drivers’ afternoons. The latter driver got out, stared down and sarcastically clapped at Crafton as the No. 88 went by under caution. To add insult to injury, a safety truck lost grip on the dirt as it trundled by, slamming into the No. 4 and shoving it against the inside wall.
JHN is not impressed … pic.twitter.com/zdG3lQ0OA7
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 29, 2021
- As for the other Cup drivers … Kevin Harvick, despite his enthusiasm after Truck practice on Friday (March 26), brought his David Gilliland Racing No. 17 home 15th. Bubba Wallace finished 11th and Daniel Suarez ended up 17th. Chase Briscoe was the highest-finishing Cup driver outside of Truex, scoring a fifth-place finish in Roper Racing’s No. 04.
2021 Rookie Report
No. 1 – Hailie Deegan
No. 18 – Chandler Smith
No. 23 – Chase Purdy
No. 42 – Carson Hocevar
No. of rookies in the race: 4
No. of rookies in the top 10: 0. Purdy was the closest to the top 10, but finished all the way back in 18th. Deegan ended up 19th.
Rookie of the Race: Purdy, finished 18th
Point report: Despite Nemecheck’s early crash and Rhodes’ strong run, the former remains atop the points standings; Rhodes did gain 41 points to cut Nemechek’s advantage to six. The top six in the standings remained the same, while Self leapfrogged four spots into 10th and Todd Gilliland jumped three to ninth. Losing ground were Johnny Sauter and Hocevar, both of whom fell out of the top 10.
You don't hear this every day: The average speed of today's truck race was 41.096 mph.
— Dustin Albino (el-bee-no) (@DustinAlbino) March 29, 2021
— Adam Cheek (@adamncheek) March 29, 2021
— Martin Truex Jr. (@MartinTruex_Jr) March 29, 2021
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 29, 2021
Solid day, started 13th finished 4th, little disappointed at the end we couldn’t get more but that’s racing, great adjustments on our pit stops to keep up with the track, super proud of everyone @Team_FRM we need to keep this up! Thank you @SpeedcoPM @Ford pic.twitter.com/2iBwINg7c2
— Todd Gilliland (@ToddGilliland_) March 29, 2021
Up next: The Truck Series has a three-week break in-between Bristol and their lone race of April. That will be the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway, where the Trucks returned to last fall after 15 years away. Grant Enfinger is the defending winner for this year’s event, which is set for Saturday, April 17 at 1:30 p.m. ET with coverage on FS1.