MARTINSVILLE, Va. – After enduring a historic losing streak in NASCAR Cup Series action on short tracks, Martin Truex Jr. proved Wednesday night that he’s finally become the master of the bullrings.
Truex won his second Cup race in a row at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with a flawless performance late in the going at the .526-mile paper clip. He rallied back from an early pit-road penalty to take the lead from Brad Keselowski on lap 370 of the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500.
From there, the 2017 Cup champion drove off to as much as a five second gap over the field, taking the checkered flag 4.705 seconds clear of runner-up Ryan Blaney.
Though he went winless in his first 80 short-track starts at the Cup level, Truex has now won four of the last six Cup races on tracks less than one mile in length. It was his 27th career Cup win overall.
“We’ve been working a long time at trying to figure this place out and just chipping away at it. The last couple years, we’ve been really strong; 2018 was definitely a heartbreaker at the end of the race there. But last year to get the win and (then again) this year, my hat is off to the guys,” said Truex. “We started the first run and it pushed the right-front tire off. We were terrible at that point. But some really good adjustments from the guys made this possible, and I just want to thank all of them.
“It’s a big day for us. I want to say hi to all the fans at home, we definitely miss them,” added Truex, acknowledging the empty grandstands behind him. “This just doesn’t feel right, but it’s exciting to win, for sure.”
Truex’s score wasn’t just his first of the season, it was also the first win for Australian crew chief James Small, who took over duties atop the pit box from Cole Pearn after Pearn stepped away from NASCAR following the end of the 2019 season.
That significance wasn’t lost on Truex, who has quickly developed a strong rapport with Small, in victory lane.
“This win is huge for his confidence,” noted Truex of Small. “I knew we would get one soon, though. The last couple weeks, at the end of the race, we’d get in our group text and I would say, ‘Our win’s coming soon guys, keep it up.’ I’m just so proud of them, because we have an awesome team.
“It’s nice to get another win early in the season, and hopefully now we can get on a roll.”
Wednesday’s event was the first night race at the historic Martinsville half-mile in its 72-year history, and as the temperatures cooled off and the lights came on, plenty of change came throughout the field.
Powerhouse drivers like Blaney, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth fell a lap down within the first 60 laps – before a scheduled competition caution – while Joey Logano dominated the first half.
Logano led a race-high 234 laps, winning the first stage in the process, and appeared to be the man to beat when the final stage kicked off on lap 272.
He passed Blaney – who assumed the point on the stage-three restart – on lap 284 and led most of the distance from there to lap 365, when he was overhauled by Keselowski in a three-car battle between Team Penske stablemates at the front of the field.
But the straw that stirred the drink after that was Truex, who quickly charged into second and broke up the Penske trifecta moments after Keselowski’s pass for the lead.
Five rotations later, it was Truex ducking under Keselowski to take command for good, never looking back the rest of the way.
Keselowski and Logano trailed Truex and Blaney home in third and fourth, with Chase Elliott crossing fifth.
Alex Bowman, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Kurt Busch and nine-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson filled out the top 10.
Johnson appeared to be a threat for his 10th Ridgeway grandfather clock on Wednesday night after driving up to the lead on lap 202 and dominating from there to earn the stage two victory.
However, Johnson’s Chevrolet got “snug” at the start of the final stage and he fell back from there, unable to recapture his speed from the run prior throughout the closing stages of the race.
Just two yellows – one at lap 326 for the spun car of David Starr and one at lap 397 for a looped Quin Houff – slowed the pace in the final stage. Including the stage breaks, there were seven yellows overall.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.