Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
OBSERVATIONS: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway
While short tracks have been the rave for NASCAR fans, Richmond Raceway is missing the mark by a bit.
No doubt the Toyota Owners 400 will be called a success by many in the coming weeks, but that is solely based on the race to the checkered.
Martin Truex Jr. proved that he was talented in helping grow Furniture Row Racing from the small team in Colorado to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions. Though on Saturday night, he showcased his grit behind the wheel. Despite not having the strongest car, he was able to hold off the late charges from Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano to take the victory. Both were able to close the gap to the back bumper of the No. 19 Toyota – thanks to the leader having to weave through traffic, but Truex altering his line to match his competitors and not allow the racing room necessary proved to be enough.
It is still a shock to many fans to learn that this is the New Jersey’s native first ever win on a short track in the premiere series, but that is indeed the case. It hasn’t been for lack of effort, as he led the most laps in his previous three starts on the 0.75-mile, and he was ready to win at Martinsville Speedway last fall until contact from Logano.
Outside of the battle for the win, there was nothing real special about Saturday in Virginia.
Although the restarts were wild with three-wide racing at times, the field would string out with difficulty for drivers to make passes on each other. Kyle Busch showed that as after speeding on pit road in the second stage, he only fought back for a eighth-place finish compared to running top-five before the penalty.
There was also the same usual suspects up front with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Team Penske, and Stewart-Haas Racing sweeping the top-five positions.
The struggles also continued for Hendrick Motorsports (HMS), as they only had a driver in the top-10 for about 50 laps in the event with Jimmie Johnson scoring the highest finish in 12th. Chevrolet, though, showed promise with speed. Chris Buescher ran top-10 through the first half of the race before finishing 22nd, while Austin Dillon knocked out a sixth.
The Easter Bunny brings a week without racing for teams, and certainly some need this more than others to improve their programs.
The return to racing will bring us to Talladega Superspeedway, with anything and everything is possible as manufactures and teams dance. The Daytona 500 showcased this with an alliance between JGR and HMS to challenge Ford, but was also bored fans with multiple laps spent single-file. The trip to Alabama typically produces a crazier race than the season opener, so fingers crossed there’s entertainment on the horizon.
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