Richmond, Va. — Martin Truex Jr. had about 40 laps to go and Clint Bowyer closing fast.
In a race to see who could preserve their car best, Truex outlasted Bowyer and then held off a four-lap charge by Joey Logano to win the NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night.
“I was struggling the last 40 laps,” Truex said. “I had not front turn. I was just real, real tight that last run. I just had to hold him off. Being out front was important tonight.”
Because he did, Truex gave Joe Gibbs Racing its sixth victory in nine races this season and won for the first time in his career on tracks shorter than a mile.
“At the end of the day, we drove up to him and you get terrible tight behind people,” Bowyer said.
Truex led a race-high 186 laps and regained the lead for the last time after green-flag pit stops that started with just more than 80 laps to go. With about 40 to go, Bowyer challenged with what seemed like a faster car, but Bowyer finally relinquished the second spot to Logano, who also seemed to have the faster car of the top two.
Truex expertly navigated lapped traffic and never let him pass to win for the first time in 81 starts in the Cup series on a short track. It’s his 20th career victory and 17th in the last four seasons.
“It means a lot to finally break through,” Truex said in Victory Lane. “I hope it was a helluva show. It sure was fun behind the wheel.”
Logano held on for second. Bowyer was third and Kevin Harvick fourth, giving Stewart-Haas Racing two top-four finishers. Local favorite Denny Hamlin was fifth.
“We were close, just not close enough,” Logano said. “Ran out of time there. … Fun race, just gosh. Three weeks in a row I felt like we had a car that could win the race and we haven’t won. That’s a little frustrating, but when you’re frustrated with second, that’s a good sign.”
The stage for the finish was set when the leaderboard got shuffled beginning on Lap 318 when the cars running up front began pitting under a green flag.
When they all had new tires and enough fuel to finish, Truex was back in front, followed by Bowyer, Logano, Harvick and Hamlin. Brad Keselowski (Rochester Hills) dropped to eighth during the cycle and Kyle Busch, seeking his third victory in a row on the 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval, his fourth of the season and second in a row, fell back to 10th.
Rossi takes Indy pole
Alexander Rossi will try to win his second consecutive race through the streets of Long Beach from the pole.
The defending race winner snagged the top starting spot for Sunday’s race as the qualifying session ended. He won from the pole last year. The Andretti Autosport driver scored victories in three of the four times he’s started an IndyCar race out front.
Scott Dixon qualified second, his best starting position at Long Beach, followed by the Team Penske trio Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. Graham Rahal was sixth for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Bottas in top spot for Chinese GP
Valtteri Bottas claimed the pole for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton taking the second spot on the grid after qualifying.
Bottas topped qualifying in 1 minute, 31.547 seconds with Hamilton second in 1:31.570. The teammates are the leaders after the first two Formula One races this season with each having won once.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will start third with teammate Charles Leclerc alongside him on the second row. The two Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, will make up the third row in what F1 is billing as its 1,000th Grand Prix, dating from 1950 at Silverstone in southern England.
Father-daughter duo prevail
John and Brittany Force topped qualifying in the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway, the first time a father-daughter duo has swept the nitro categories.
The 69-year-old John Force led the Funny Car field with a 3.888-second lap at 319.29 mph on Friday in a Chevy Camaro SS.
Brittany Force also had her best Top Fuel run Friday, a track-record 3.661 at 332.18.