It’s starting to look like Martin Truex Jr. is asserting himself as the favorite for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series championship as the New Jersey-native scored his third win in the season’s opening 12 races in Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway.
Truex led an impressive 248 of the 293 laps on the day, but it was the incredible moxie he showed in the closing laps, as Kyle Larson mounted a challenge, that was truly impressive.
“We just had a good balance,” Truex said of his car. “The car would do what I wanted it to do. I just had to manage those long runs. It was really loose on that last run and I was nervous with [Larson] catching us. We got mired in some traffic there, that’s always tough.”
After his latest triumph, Truex is now a 30-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Larson faded over the final couple of circuits to finish 2.5 seconds behind Truex, but held on to finish second. After climbing from his car, Larson said he had once chance to get around Truex, and opted to play it safe.
“Yeah, I was surprised that I was able to get to him. I caught him really — well, I closed on pit road, then caught him pretty quickly once we were on track. Was riding and actually had an opportunity to get by him in the middle of [turns] one and two but I thought I’d stay patient and maybe get him to use his stuff up,” Larson explained. “He was a little better than I was on the long run. Just wish I maybe could have taken advantage of that opportunity, but thought it was going to play out a little differently.”
Kyle Busch followed up his win in Kansas with a third-place finish. The good finish was a rebound of sorts, as Busch cut a tire and spun from the lead at lap 20.
William Byron scored his 10th-consecutive top-10 finish with an impressive fourth-place effort in his Valvoline Neil Bonnett throwback scheme.
Denny Hamlin finished fifth, despite slapping the wall in the closing laps in his Slick Johnson tribute scheme.
Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-10 finishers on the day.
Sunday’s race was fun, despite being a Truex runaway for the majority of the event due to the high horsepower, low downforce package that was utilized for the race. Drivers were on the absolute edge of grip all race long, and many drivers made some gutsy moves throughout the 400-miles of action.