Saturday's motors: Martin Truex Jr. leads 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing at Richmond
Richmond, Va. — Martin Truex Jr. assumed the lead when Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch was penalized for speeding with about 50 laps to go and won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night.
The victory was the third for Truex in the last five races at Richmond. He got the lead when Busch was caught speeding entering pit road during green flag pit stops, causing him to relinquish a big lead and fall back to 10th.
Truex led a 1-2-3 finish for JGR — the sixth in its history — with Denny Hamlin finishing second and Christopher Bell third.
Truex won despite being black-flagged on the first lap for beating Hamlin, the pole-sitter, to the start-finish line for the start of the race.
“That was frustrating, I’m not going to lie, but I knew we had a good enough car to overcome it,” Truex said about the penalty.
His car bore a red, white and blue paint scheme as part of the day-long tribute to honor the victims and heroes of the Sept. 11 attacks 20 years ago.
“It’s an important day in our history and I think all of us here — yeah, we’re proud to win and this car’s amazing and there’s so many people to thank, but what a day to win on,” Truex said in victory lane. “It reminds you of the honor it is and the privilege it is to get to come out here and do this.”
Hamlin trimmed an 8-second deficit to 1.4 seconds, but ran out of time.
“We needed just a couple more laps. That’s all.” Hamlin said.
Bell has won three times on the 0.75-mile oval in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“We knew going into Richmond that this is one of our better racetracks, so we needed to capitalize on that and get all the points we could,” he said.
Truex’s penalty sent him to the back of the field, but as he has done repeatedly since ending an 80-race winless drought on tracks shorter than a mile at the start of his career, he masterfully worked his way back into contention.
The victory was his fourth of the season and the 31st of his career.
Defending series champion Chase Elliott was fourth, followed by Joey Logano and points-leader Kyle Larson, who started the race at the back of the field after twice failing pre-race inspection. Larson finished sixth and did clinch his spot in the second round of the playoffs, which start after next weekend.
Hamlin, as he did in the spring here, won both stages and led the most laps — 207 in the spring, 197 in this race — but failed to follow his victory last weekend with another on the track about 20 miles from where he grew up.
Noah Gragson held onto the lead after a restart with seven laps to go and held off Justin Haley on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
Gragson, driving in the race with JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., ended a 49-race winless streak last weekend at Darlington and added his second victory of the season to carry momentum into the coming playoffs.
Just one race remains before the field is set for the 12-driver postseason.
Haley held on for second, followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Gragson teammate Justin Allgaier and Riley Herbst with just one race left before the 10-race playoffs begin.
Nemechek, a regular in the NASCAR truck series, was driving for Sam Hunt Racing, a team owned by VCU graduate and former racer Sam Hunt, a native of Midlothian, about 15 miles from the track.
Earnhardt, making his annual lone start in the series, rose to as high as third by gambling on old tires with about 60 laps to go, but quickly faded to 21st because most of the race leaders had fresher tires. He and others got the caution they needed with just over 20 laps to go, but Earnhardt was caught speeding in pit road and only rallied to 14th.