Truex Dominates Darlington In Spite of Larson’s Effort

Brad Keselowski led the 37-car field to the green flag in NASCAR’s Throwback race at Darlington. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Face the music, it was a typical Martin Truex, Jr. domination when he’s the man to beat. People got that during Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. However, Truex had to earn that victory during its climax because Kyle Larson was ever-so determined.

Larson did everything he could to cut Truex’s deficit down after the final set of pit stops. He even threaded the needle by passing the lapped cars of Ryan Newman and Tyler Reddick. It just wasn’t meant to be as Truex scored a series leading third Cup win of the season.

After navigating the 1.366-mile circuit 293 times, Truex burned it down and accomplished a feat that wasn’t done. That being the first man to win at Darlington after scoring stage victories. When a man leads 248 laps and won each stage, the curse was bound to be broken. Something Truex was happily glad to break.

“We have won a bunch of stage over these last few years – just Lady Luck always got us. Track position, it would be one thing or the other,” said Truex. “I’m extremely proud of everyone on this Auto Owners Camry.”

Sunday’s Cup Series triumph showcased Martin Truex, Jr.‘s strength that could be a nightmare for his competition. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

On the surface, Truex’s paint scheme may not stand out over others. He made it clear the scheme is an homage to his time at Furniture Row Racing. Even telling Regan Smith, who won at Darlington in Spring 2011, the flat black scheme is a throwback.

“It’s really cool to throwback to Furniture Row. Hopefully, Barney Visser (FRM owner) is out here watching,” said Truex. “I know, Regan, you and I both owe him a lot, but this one is for Furniture Row. It’s pretty cool.”

Podium Reflections

James Small

An enthused crew chief relished the otherwise dominant victory from his driver. More so when Truex loves the 750-horsepower package, which in Small’s eyes has helped tremendously. As last season, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing crew were humbled by the two notable teams.

“We were okay last year as a company at short tracks. Then we went to Phoenix and kind of got our asses whooped by Penske and Hendrick,” said Small. “The whole company worked really hard in the off-season just trying to find all the little things and work on the aero and work on just everything we can within what’s fixed right now. We’re sort of limited on the aero time and things like that. It’s hard to find gains.

“But everybody back there has been busting their chops really focusing on this because we know it’s going to come down to Phoenix if we can get there.”

Larson

Kyle Larson gave it his all in the closing laps at Darlington. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

What certainly looked like a lost race as far as the competition being tight, Larson stepped up to the plate. In fact, he didn’t do it alone as his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports pit crew nailed their final stop. This put him in an excellent position to make a battle out of it which turned out to be surprising.

“I closed on pit road and then I caught him pretty quickly once we were on track. Closed right in and actually had an opportunity to get by him in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2,” said Larson. “Thought I’d stay patient and maybe get him to use his stuff up. He was just a little bit better than I was in the long runs. So, just wish maybe I could have taken advantage of that opportunity, but thought it was going to play out a little differently.”

Kyle Busch

Busch an eventful afternoon, highlighted with a Lap 23 spin in Turn 4 after losing the race lead to Truex. It didn’t really faze the two-time series champion as he rallied back to round out the top-three.

A mixed reaction among the fans following Kyle Busch’s flat tire early in the race. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

After winning Kansas last Sunday, it’s the kind of momentum Busch has been looking for a long time. Maybe it’s the long awaiting sign that his entire No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing entity are clicking.

“I think things are going good. We’re talking a lot – Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and myself and the group,” said Busch. “We’re clicking a little bit and we’re trying to get everybody on the same page where I like to feel a car, drive a car, that sort of stuff.

“Today, I felt like we were a little off on that. I didn’t quite have the feel that I was looking for until that last run. The last run was our best run I thought, but that was just a little too late. The field got spread out by that point.”

Stewart-Haas Nightmare

As if the four-car organization needed another disappointing afternoon, it was further realized by two of their entries. The first caution came out on Lap 6 when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. got into the back of Aric Almirola. It sent the latter around in Turn 2 and hit nose first into the inside wall, becoming the first retiree.

“I got wrecked. Pretty simple,” said Almirola. “We were passing about one a lap and I got to (Stenhouse) and passed him. Then at the exit of 2, I had to check up just a little bit because I got tight. He ran right into the back of me and wrecked me.”

Cole Custer navigating around Darlington, ahead of Kurt Busch. Both competitor’s afternoons were dashed due to separate accidents. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

In Stage 2, Cole Custer had a similar fate happen at the same exact corner of Almirola’s exit. On Lap 99, Anthony Alfredo got loose after trying to get by Quin Houff. It sent Alfredo low where Custer was running, thus sending him nose first into the wall.

Following the nasty shot, Custer commented it was a simple game of drivers checking up in front of him.

“I didn’t have anywhere to go. It is really frustrating. We wanted to give Margaret Haas a really good run in our Mother’s Day car,” said Custer. It just didn’t work out for us. We’ll move on to (Dover). We were really looking forward to this race, but it didn’t go in our favor.”

Both Kevin Harvick and Chase Briscoe had a quiet afternoon, but neither really being a true threat in the race. Throwing it back to his Cup debut at Rockingham 20 years ago, Harvick led 10 laps early but finished sixth. On the other hand, Briscoe finished just outside the top-10.

Results

Martin Truex, Jr. swept all three stages in front of a strong crowd on hand. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Stage 1 Results: Truex, Hamlin, Reddick, Larson, Harvick, Logano, Blaney, Elliott, Byron and Bowman 

Stage 2 Results: Truex, Ky. Busch, Byron, Hamlin, Larson, Bell, Logano, Reddick, Blaney and Buescher

Final Top 10 Results: Truex, Larson, Ky. Busch, Byron, Hamlin, Harvick, Elliott, Blaney, Buscher and Newman

luisdtorres94@hotmail.com'
Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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