Martin Truex Jr. rebounds from pre-race penalty to dominate at Dover
DOVER, Del. — If anyone loves a rainy day, it’s Martin Truex Jr.
The Mayetta, New Jersey driver won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway after a rain delay pushed the event to Monday, June 4, 2007.
On Monday at the Monster Mile, Truex won for the 21st time in the rain-delayed Gander RV 400, beating runner-up Alex Bowman to the finish line by 9.501 seconds, topping the 7.355-second margin he achieved in his inaugural win 12 years ago.
The size of Truex’s second victory of the season — and third at Dover overall — was all the more impressive because the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had to start at the rear of the field after two pre-race inspection failures.
“Man, it feels incredible,” said Truex, who led the last 53 laps and 132 overall, second only to pole winner and fifth-place finisher Chase Elliott’s 146. “I’m so thankful for this team. What a race car we had today.
“We have one hell of a team. We came here with a new setup this time because we kind of had an older setup that we won with in 2016, and we’d been good, but not good enough.
“Thanks to all these fans that came out today, on a Monday. It’s just awesome.”
Truex had remarked before the race that coming through the field wouldn’t be easy. Even though he made it look that way, Truex had to put in a hard day’s work at one of NASCAR’s most physically demanding tracks.
“I promise it wasn’t easy,” Truex said. “It was a lot of work. It was tough. This race car, man, it was just incredible.”
Kyle Larson ran third, scoring his first top five of the season, and Kevin Harvick finished fourth. Erik Jones, Joey Logano, William Byron, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
For Busch, the top 10 was his 11th straight to start the season, matching the record set by Morgan Shepherd in 1990. Busch will attempt to break the tie next Sunday at Kansas, where he has finished in the top 10 in his last eight starts.
Elliott dominated the race from the green flag, leading the first 107 laps, but a caution for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s hard contact with the Turn 1 wall put strategy into play. Logano and Byron each took two tires under the yellow and led the field to a Lap 111 restart.
Logano was able to hold the top spot through the Lap 120 end of Stage 1, collecting his fifth stage win of the season in a one-lap shootout after Quin Houff’s accident between Turns 1 and 2. In need of fresh left-side tires, however, both Logano and Byron were forced to pit during the stage break, and they restarted 24th and 25th, respectively, on Lap 130.
It took Logano most of Stage 2 to break into the top 15, as the second 120 laps of the race evolved into a battle between Elliott, Bowman, Harvick and Truex. Elliott held the top spot after a cycle of green-flag pit stops ended on Lap 191, but he surrendered the lead to Bowman on Lap 224, when Bowman sustained a huge run through Turns 3 and 4 and crossed over on the frontstretch to take the point.
Bowman stayed out front until the final lap of the stage, when Truex shot past and took the green/checkered flag for his first stage win of the season. Coincidentally, both Truex and Bowman had started the race form the rear of the field after each of their cars failed pre-race inspection twice.
After pit stops, Truex and Bowman restarted 1-2 on Lap 250 and maintained those positions until Denny Hamlin cut a tire after scraping the wall and spun in Turn 2 on Lap 265. On the subsequent restart, Harvick charged from fourth to second, leaving Bowman and Larson in his wake.
In an exchange of green-flag pit stops with 50 laps left, however, Bowman regained the second position, and Larson overtook Harvick for third. Truex extended his advantage to more than four seconds with 44 laps left, and there was no change in the running order of the top four over the balance of the event.