Truex Jr. Leads Most Richmond Laps, Finishes 4th and Keeps Points Lead

Denny Halin only led 18 laps but the ost important one earned him the win - Getty Images photo for NASCAR
Denny Halin only led 18 laps but the ost important one earned him the win – Getty Images photo for NASCAR

When you race on a bullring track, like the .75-mile Richmond Raceway oval where NASCAR held its most recent Cup Series contest, won by Virginia native Denny Hamlin for his 53rd NASCAR Cup Series victory and fifth at his “home” track, there’s bound to be sore cars, sore egos and the occasional revenge for misconstrued actions.

And so it went on Sunday night, after Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., having led the most laps (228) in this 407-lap Toyota Owners 400 race, had the ignominy of having his No. 19 Camry XSE moved out of the way starting the two-lap overtime following the race’s final caution. The last yellow came for an incident between the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Kyle Larson kraces for Hendrick Motorsports and 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace in his Toyota Camry XSE. Truex Jr. lost the lead on pit road and then was pushed nearly to the wall by both Hamlin Larson as the final green flags flew.

Martin Truex Jr. may have the points lead but was devastated not to win at Richmond – Anne Proffit photo

On the cooldown lap, Truex Jr. edged the door of Larson, who’d pushed him wide on the restart. He then tried to run down Hamlin and slammed into his teammate’s rear bumper before finally entering pit road. Truex Jr. was certain Hamlin had jumped the final green and wanted to let him know how he felt. “Just got beat out of the pits… he [Hamlin] jumped the start and then he just used me up into Turn 1. It definitely sucks,” Truex Jr. said, “but a good solid day and another car capable of winning.”

Hamlin was not about to accept blame for what happened to him. Of course he was trying to keep a lead he’d gained on pit road but he wasn’t trying to play any games. “I went right at it, for sure,” he said. “The 19 was rolling a couple miles an hour quicker than I was. I wasn’t going to let them have an advantage that my team earned on pit road. Certainly made sure I went to my nose, got there. But I took off right away.”

NASCAR, of course, looked at all angles of FOXs broadcast and it was former racer and current NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer who reminded everyone, “We reviewed that. We looked at it. Obviously, the 11 was the control vehicle,” as they raced the final pair of laps. “It was awful close, but we deemed it to be a good restart.” Even if NASCAR had decided the restart needed to be remedied, Truex Jr. would not have won this race as he was fourth at the checkers.

Team owner Joe Gibbs played Solomon after the race was done and the penalty given. “You’re happy for Denny, certainly, and everything that happened for him, but then you see Martin, how hard he fought for the win, how much he wanted it,” Gibbs mused. “That’s part of our sport; it’s really hard. You really feel for them when they go through a night like Martin went through this night. You just feel for them.”

No doubt everyone will sit down, hash it out and get ready for another short-track battle this weekend in Martinsville, VA, a .526-mile oval. This is the eighth round of the season, second short-track of the year and another 400-lap battle to the checkers. Truex Jr., a three-time Martinsville victor, goes into the event with “no harm; no foul” to his name. With his fourth-place result, he’s got momentum, the points lead and an unmatched need to stay at the front.

“Definitely high confidence going into Martinsville compared to the first year of this [NextGen] car,” Truex Jr. said. “To be able to go run like we did at Richmond, it gives me a lot of confidence going forward that our Martinsville stuff should be good. I love going there; it’s been a really good track for us our the years – aside from the first year of the NextGen.”

Truex Jr. leads Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 by 14 points with Denny Hamlin 18 in arrears. Ty Gibbs (Toyota), Ryan Blaney (Ford), Christopher Bell (Toyota), teammates William Byron and Chase Elliott (Chevy), Ross Chastain (Chevy) and Tyler Reddick’s Toyota (-71) complete the top 10.

About Anne Proffit 1248 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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