Martin Truex Jr. took the lead in Stage 1 during a yellow flag pit stop with 99 laps to go. His teammate Denny Hamlin, who had led the opening 31 laps from the pole, but suffered a slow stop and dropped to fifth.
Truex never looked back as he lapped up to 17th-place in the field during Stage 1. Truex took the Stage win.
Hamlin rebounded to finish second in the Stage.
Ryan Blaney, who came into this race in the bottom two of the Playoff grid, finished the Stage in third and could be an upset candidate to move to Homestead if he stays in position throughout the next 400 laps.
Clint Bowyer finished fourth in Stage 1, while Joey Logano — who won this race last year after roughing up Truex — finished fifth.
William Byron and Aric Almirola finished sixth and seventh.
Meanwhile, Chase Elliott knifed through the field to finish eighth. Elliott, of course, started at the rear after blowing an engine in the opening practice session of the weekend.
Elliott has the attention of the rest of the drivers in the field as he was able to keep his car clean and stay on the lead lap while cutting inside the top-10 over the first 130 laps.
Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top-10 in Stage 1.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson were the two Playoff contenders who finished outside the top-10, but for Larson, he wasn’t able to stay on the lead lap.
Larson, who is racing with a fractured rib, ended the Stage 17th, one lap off the pace. Luckily, Larson was able to hold up Truex just long enough while going down a lap to ensure that he was the first car a lap down.
Larson, as a result, will take the free pass at the start of Stage 2.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.