Martin Truex Jr. had a disastrous start to Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, but in the end he rallied from an opening lap penalty to score his fourth win of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“That was frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” Truex said of the opening lap penalty. “I knew we’d have a good enough car to overcome it. It felt pretty good those first couple of laps. It’s just one of those things, you gotta put it out of your mind and you gotta go race. We knew there was a lot on the line tonight.”
For Truex, it was a special win as it came on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
“It’s an important day in our history,” Truex said. “I think all of us here, yeah we’re proud to win and the car was amazing and there’s so many people to thank, but what a day to win on. It reminds you what an honor it is — what a privilege it is to get to come out here and get to do this.”
On the initial start of the race, Truex beat his teammate Denny Hamlin to the start line, which is a no-no as Hamlin was the control car for the initial start of the race. After serving a penalty, and nearly losing a lap, Truex kept his head down and kept his car clean as he clawed his way back through the field.
Truex took the lead for good on lap 350, and he led the final 51 circuits of the race.
Hamlin attempted to catch Truex over the closing laps, but came up 1.4-seconds shy of his JGR teammate. Had he had a little more time, Hamlin knows he could have scored his second-consecutive win.
“Yeah, just a couple more. Just a couple more,” Hamlin said. “Just our pit stops were a little slow there and we lost about two or three seconds right before on pit road on those two stops. And that’s, you know, about a second and a half behind. We were coming.”
Even though he came up short of the win, Hamlin, who led a race-high 197 laps, did bank two more Playoff points on Saturday night as he scored the Stage 1 and 2 wins.
Christopher Bell came home an impressive third, which backed up his fourth-place run at Richmond in the spring. Chase Elliott came back from a miscue on pit road earlier in the event, where he actually ran over his own jack and lost about 20 seconds, to finish fourth.
Joey Logano came home a quiet fifth.
Kyle Larson secured his place into the next round of the Playoffs by way of points with a solid sixth-place effort. The finish came after Larson, who was supposed to start from the pole, had to drop to the rear after his car failed pre-race inspection multiple times.
Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.
Kurt Busch, who entered the day fourth in the Playoff standings, fell out of the race when a tire went flat on lap 40 and sent him hard into the outside wall. Busch is still barely clinging onto Playoff contention as he holds the 12th spot in the championship standings after Richmond.
Heading into the final race of the Round of 16 in the Playoffs, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson have all secured their advancement to the Round of 12. The remainder of the 12-driver field in the Playoffs will be set next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The four drivers currently sitting outside the cutline of the Playoffs after Richmond are: Alex Bowman (-0 points), Tyler Reddick (-5), William Byron (-18) and Michael McDowell (-38).