Martin Truex Jr. Holds Off Kyle Larson To Win Goodyear 400 At Darlington Racewayby Hunter Thomas May 9, 2021 1 comment
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Martin Truex Jr. led a dominating 248 laps and held off Kyle Larson en route to winning the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday.
In the closing 30 laps, Kyle Larson made up significant ground and caught Truex and challenged him for the lead. The two drivers battled through lapped traffic, and at one point, Larson had to split lapped cars through the middle of a three-wide situation. Truex held Larson at bay as he went on to win for the second time in his career at Darlington. The victory marked the 30th of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“We just had a good balance,” Truex said. “The car would do what I wanted it to do. I just had to manage those long runs. It was really loose that last run. I was nervous when the 5 (Kyle Larson) was catching us. We got mired in some traffic there, and that’s always tough.”
Sunday’s win is Truex’s third victory this season. Out of the 12 races run so far this season, Truex is the only driver to have multiple victories. Winning is always a positive, but Truex says winning at the tracks that feature the low downforce package is a huge momentum boost for the efforts leading towards the Playoffs.
“I think the most important part is we are winning with the low downforce package, which most of the Playoff races we run are,” Truex said. “Phoenix was a really, really big confidence booster for us – to go there and win. I feel like we’ve carried it since there. We just have to keep this thing going. Guys are doing a really good job, all around. It’s so fun to drive race cars like that.”
Kyle Larson held on to finish second in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 HendrickCars.com Throwback Chevrolet. The runner-up effort is Larson’s fifth top-five of the season. When Larson made his way to the back of Truex’s bumper in the closing laps, Larson had to remind himself to stay calm. Larson feels that maybe he was a little too patient.
“I definitely had to tell myself to just calm myself,” Larson said. “I wish I was. Even the whole last stage I felt like I did a good job for where I was at and who I was battling with to take care of my stuff.
“But yeah, when the leader is in front of you it is tougher to remind yourself. But in a way I maybe was too patient at one point. I got to his back bumper in 1 and 2 and I could see he was struggling in front of me, and I thought, well, if I am just patient here and stay behind him and put some pressure on him, maybe he’ll use his stuff up or get into the wall in 3 and 4 because he was running so close to it. So I was just hoping that he would make a mistake.”
Kyle Busch had an up and down day, but he was able to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s Toyota home in the third position. Earlier in the race, Busch brought out the second caution of the day on Lap 23, when a left rear tire went down. Busch was leading at the time of the spin. As the race progressed, Busch made his way back up to the top-five.
“Yes, solid day overall,” Busch said. “Definitely better than some of our other 750 package races, but just missing a little bit on the long run. It seemed like we could fire off with (Martin) Truex there and hang with him a little bit. Actually, we would catch him for about five laps and then it was over. Just trying to hold on after that point. Overall, real good day.”
William Byron and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick finished sixth, followed by Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher and Ryan Newman.
There were 19 lead changes among 10 drivers throughout the Goodyear 400.
The caution flag flew on six occasions for 36 laps. Only two of the cautions were for multi-car accidents.
On Lap 100, contact from Anthony Alfredo sent Cole Custer hard into the inside wall on the backstretch.
“They all checked up in front of me and just turned down into me,” Custer said. “I didn’t have anywhere to go. It is really frustrating.”
Contact between Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch sent Busch into the inside wall on the frontstretch to bring out the caution on Lap 108. Busch was forced to park his car in Turn 1, when flames ignited from underneath the hood.
“I was racing hard and there’s no give and take,” Busch said. “Guy’s running for the Lucky Dog; you can’t fault him for that. But you still have to race the track and the give the room to the lead lap guys. But man, just got ran into, got taken out and we’re on this end of it. It’s been too many times. It’s been a rough year and this just adds to it.”
The NASCAR Cup Series will visit Dover International Speedway on Sunday, May 16. Live coverage of the Drydene 400 will broadcast live on FS1 at 2 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images