Sparta, Ky. — Martin Truex Jr. boldly declared his Toyota the best car he had ever raced, and several statistics make it hard to dispute him.
There also was plenty of visual evidence of how close to perfect his Saturday night went.
Truex was dominant throughout and had enough left on a final restart to win the NASCAR Monster Energy Series Cup race night at Kentucky Speedway.
“It was very big to do what we did tonight,” Truex said. “I can never recall saving fuel and pulling away from everybody before, so it was pretty amazing.”
Second in points entering the 400-mile event, Truex started second beside Kyle Busch and won the first two stages. Truex led the final segment by as many as 15 seconds before a final caution created overtime and bunched the field together.
That made no difference as Truex flew past Busch on the restart and went on to his third victory of the season and 10th of his career. He led five times for 152 of 274 laps and swept all three stages in the No. 78 Toyota to earn 60 points draw within one of standings leader Kyle Larson, who finished second in a Chevy.
Truex’s dominant performance wasn’t the only reason he was smiling. He was eager to get back and bring his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, home after a medical procedure. Pollex has battled ovarian cancer that had been in remission.
“Everything went perfectly good, went as planned,” he said “I’m bringing her home tomorrow, so I’m excited to see her and everything’s going great. She was pretty excited.”
Chase Elliott was third in a Chevy, followed by Denny Hamlin and Busch in Toyotas. Busch led 112 laps, but fell short of his third Kentucky victory.
Then again, Truex wasn’t inclined to let anyone get close in earning his first Kentucky triumph.
Pole winner Busch pounced right away and led the first 66 laps but often had Truex close by in the battle of Toyotas. Truex twice found the speed to make timely passes and ultimately took the first two stages, but he saved his best for the last segment.
Running seventh as the third stage began, Truex was back in front within several laps and merely got stronger as he went along. He had a 13-second lead with about 55 laps remaining and was running all alone before Kurt Busch blew an engine with two laps left to create extra time.
It didn’t matter.
Truex’s dominance stole the spotlight from Kyle Busch, who won the Xfinity Series race earlier Saturday and for a while appeared headed toward NASCAR’s first same-day sweep of the two series. But Kentucky’s most dominant driver — nor anybody — else could touch Truex.
Larson’s finish was impressive considering he started 40th after failing inspection on Friday. He soon was among the contenders before being penalized for speeding on pit road, overcoming that setback to pass Kyle Busch after the final restart.
“We were second best, but he’s in a whole new league right now,” Larson said, giving a nod to Truex.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led three laps and finished 12th, one spot higher than he started in his final Kentucky start.
An uneventful first stage was quickly followed by several wrecks that knocked out some notable drivers, including defending race winner Brad Keselowski (Rochester Hills).
Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford got sideways and made contact with Clint Bowyer before collecting Jimmy Johnson. Bowyer returned but Johnson and Keselowski were done with heavy damage.
“I knew I was in a bad spot,” said Keselowski, who started 10th and sought his fourth Kentucky win. “I think I tore up two or three others guys and that sucks for them.”
Soon after, Kasey Kahne was done after colliding with Trevor Bayne, who eventually went to the garage after another spin.
Kyle Busch wins Xfinity race
Kyle Busch took the lead during a late caution on lap 168 and held on to win the 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway. The race had been postponed a day earlier because of storms, creating a 700-mile doubleheader for Busch and several other Cup drivers.
Starting the first of two races on the pole, Busch led three times for 70 laps to earn his second straight series victory at Kentucky and third overall on the 1.5-mile oval. Though less dominant than last July’s triumph from the pole in which he led 185 laps, Busch’s strong car and wise pit strategy yielded a familiar result.
Pitting earlier for tires and fuel paid off for Busch, who stayed on the track during the final yellow flag. There was no catching his No. 18 Toyota after the restart, though Ryan Blaney tried his best on the final lap after passing Erik Jones (Byron, Mich.) in his Toyota for second.
“We did what we needed to do to be there at the end,” Busch said. “We took four tires and that kind of got us behind there with two pit stops to go, and then some of those guys came in again. Obviously, our car was really fast out front and once I got in clean air I didn’t think anybody had anything for us.”
Blaney’s Ford finished 1.097 seconds behind, a strong recovery after he was penalized for a pit road tire violation during the caution.
Kevin Harvick was fourth in a Ford, with Ty Dillon fifth in a Chevy.
Power wins IndyCar pole
Will Power won the pole for Sunday’s IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway. This is his fourth pole of the season.
Power was fastest in single-car, two-lap runs on the oval. J.R. Hildebrand qualified second, followed by Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter and Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato.
Series leader Scott Dixon will start 17th after a disappointing qualifying run on the oval of just under nine-tenths of a mile.
Power has already won twice this season. He will try to give Team Penske its first win in Iowa in 11 tries.