Martin Truex Jr. Wins Third Grandfather Clock At Martinsville Speedwayby Hunter Thomas April 11, 2021 0 comments
RIDGEWAY, Va. – Martin Truex Jr. won the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday and became the first driver of 2021 to win multiple races.
Truex has now won three of the last four NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville, but on Sunday, he was only out in front of the field for 20 laps. In a race that was dominated by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Truex who had been running up front all race long was able to capitalize in the closing laps. His car seemed to handle better once the lights came on, and with 16 laps to go, and he took the lead away from Hamlin and never looked back. The victory marks his second of the season and the 29th of his career.
“This is unbelievable,” Truex said. “This place has become a playground for us I guess. We didn’t have the best car all day, but we just kept working on it and never quit on it. Proud of James (Small, crew chief) and all the guys. This Bass Pro/Tracker Toyota Camry came on at the end and that’s when it counts. There’s something about when the lights come on here, we’re really good so that was cool.”
Truex and Hamlin were strong all day, and in the final laps, the two teammates traded the lead and raced each other clean. Hamlin’s car got appeared to have gotten tight in the end, and Truex was able to get around him.
“It was good, hard, clean hard racing,” Truex said. “He (Denny Hamlin) was getting tight. I couldn’t get the power down so we kind of had opposite things going on there. I could get inside of him, but I couldn’t clear him, he could get the power down on me. It was a fun battle and it was a clean battle. Coach (Joe Gibbs, team owner) will be happy tomorrow. We didn’t make each other mad or do anything stupid.”
Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott finished second in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy. He entered the day as the fall 2020 winner at Martinsville. Elliott didn’t lead a lap in the 500-lap race, but he did run up front for the majority of the race. The runner-up finish is Elliott’s third top-five effort of the season.
“I really appreciate the effort,” Elliott said. “We worked really hard today to get back to second. I felt like every strategy call and circumstance just kind of went the other direction for us. We had a couple of good restarts there at the end; had a good pit stop and made a good last adjustment just for a short run. But definitely need to be better. Our NAPA team has been working hard. We’ve had a very eventful year I feel like, so it’s nice to just have a solid day. We got some stage points and got a good finish. We’ll try to go get them next week.”
Hamlin, who is a Virginia native, had to settle for a somewhat disappointing third. While a top-three is always a good day, Hamlin led a race high of 276 laps, which is more than half of the event. The finish is also his seventh top-three effort in the eight races so far this season, so while he has been up front, he came up just short of his first victory of the 2021 season.
“We had a really good short run car,” Hamlin said. “We just didn’t have a good long run car. We saved a set of tires – we had the tire advantage – but we couldn’t get the car to turn on the long run. That was the bugaboo, you could say, but overall, the FedEx Camry team performed well. We had a really fast car for 20 laps or so, and then it would just kind of go away. Fortunate for us, we had a great day and had ourselves a shot at it, but just wasn’t quite good enough.”
William Byron and Kyle Larson completed the top-five. Rounding out the top-10 was Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch who rebounded from a Lap 322 spin and a Lap 387 crash.
There were 18 lead changes among seven drivers, and there were also 15 cautions for 102 laps.
Many of the cautions were for single-car spins, but the largest accident occurred on Lap 387, when 12 cars piled up on the backstretch. The accident was ignited after Chris Buescher and Busch made contact while exiting Turn 2. Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez who spent time up front were involved. Fire ignited in Suarez’s car, and the red flag was displayed for 21 minutes and 47 seconds for clean-up.
Hamlin leads Truex in the standings by 76 points.
The NASCAR Cup Series will once again visit Virginia next weekend. The Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway will broadcast live on FOX at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 18.
Photo Credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images