Martin Truex Jr. offered a throwback performance on Sunday (May 9) afternoon at Darlington Raceway, returning to his sweeping ways as he won both stages and claimed the checkered flag in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Goodyear 400 for his third win of 2021.
The No. 19 was out front for a whopping 248 of 293 laps, crossing under the checkered in a sunset-tinged evening and celebrating with a backwards victory lap and burnout.
Truex’s 30th career win came from nothing short of a dominant showing by the No. 19, driving a throwback to his Furniture Row Racing days — a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota outfitted in a matte black livery reminiscent of his time with the No. 78 team. He also tamed the “Lady in Black” for a second time, nearly five full years after his first Cup Series win there.
Prior to the race, no driver had ever gone on to win a race at Darlington after winning a stage. Truex changed that on Sunday.
“Glad I could do that,” he said in his post-race interview. “We’ve won a bunch of stages here in the past couple years and…Lady Luck [always] got us, it was track position or it’d be one thing or the other. […] Really cool throwback to Furniture Row.”
Truex also atoned for a mistake he made while battling for the lead at Darlington last year, when he and Chase Elliott made contact and ended both of their days, at least competitively. The No. 19 finished 22nd that night.
On Sunday, Brad Keselowski led the field to green and held the point before it was taken away by Kevin Harvick, but a caution on lap 7 froze the field when Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola slid down and pounded the inside wall off turn 2.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 9, 2021
Joe Gibbs Racing showed its speed early when Kyle Busch shot to the lead with Truex in tow, but the No. 19 inherited the top spot when Busch cut a tire entering turn 3, spun and was forced to limp his Toyota to pit road.
Truex sailed to the stage one victory, followed by another JGR entry in Denny Hamlin‘s No. 11, as well as by Tyler Reddick in third. Reddick ran well the entire opening stage, never fighting for the lead but lurking in the top five.
Cole Custer spun around when Anthony Alfredo got loose above him, nosing hard into the inside wall on the backstretch in an almost identical crash to his SHR teammate Almirola near the beginning of the race.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 9, 2021
⚠️ Another caution for @KurtBusch.
💭 "She's killed," he tells his team.
The car burst into flames but he's out and okay. No. 1's day is done.
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) May 9, 2021
Truex proceeded to cruise to the stage two victory as well, sweeping the segments.
Less than 50 laps remained when Kyle Larson posed the first significant threat to Truex’s dominance, using a pit cycle to close in on the No. 19 and nearing the Toyota’s bumper. Lapped traffic helped the No. 5’s case, but once back in clean air Truex began to stretch his lead and Larson fell back to just under a 1-second deficit.
Truex drove flat-out the final 25 laps, nearly smacking the back end on the outside wall several times as he tried to distance himself from Larson. Chasing him, Larson made a last-ditch effort with less than 10 laps to go as he split the middle and passed the lapped cars of Reddick and Ryan Newman.
This proved to be of no avail, as Truex had less traffic to navigate and he went for a Sunday drive in the closing laps to win the 400-mile race and secure his second victory at the egg-shaped South Carolina oval.
“We just had a good balance,” he added post-race. “The car would do what I wanted it to do and I just had to manage those long runs. It was really loose that last run and I was nervous with the [No.] 5 catching us, got mired in some traffic there and that’s always tough. […] We’re really lucky to get to do this, I’m so lucky to drive for these guys. What an awesome team we have. Hopefully we can keep this rolling.”
In fourth, Byron earned his 10th consecutive top-10 finish.
The Cup Series next heads north to Dover International Speedway for the Drydene 400, which is set for Sunday, May 16 at 2 p.m. ET.