In the end, Martin Truex Jr. saved just enough fuel to secure his fourth victory of the season and first at Watkins Glen. Truex Jr. had to hold off a late charge from the No. 20 of Matt Kenseth coming to the checkered flag. A few cars passed Truex during the last few laps for including the No. 21 of Ryan Blaney but it was all a part of the plan as both Brad Keselowski and Blaney had to pit with sputtering fuel tanks.
As noted above, Kenseth brought the No. 20 Toyota Care Toyota Camry home in second, while his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Daniel Suarez, secured his best career finish in third. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five.
Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson led the field to green after Busch qualified on the pole for the third straight weekend. Busch was able to lead all 20 laps in Stage One to lock his ninth stage victory of the season. Truex finished second followed by Chase Elliott, Larson, Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.. All drivers earned stage points, while Busch earned one playoff point.
Busch came down pit road at the end of the stage, but would be forced to come down pit road again after a lug nut jammed between the brake caliper and left front wheel, it would begin the rough day for last weekend’s winner.
In one of the best finishes in the history of stage racing, Daniel Suarez put a huge block on Martin Truex Jr. in turn seven to earn his first stage victory of his career, an all-in-all strong day for the Joe Gibbs Racing rookie. Kenseth finished third followed by Erik Jones, Hamlin, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Ky. Busch, and Allmendinger.
It had looked like the No. 78 of Truex would run out of fuel just before crossing the line but he had just enough to win his 11th career victory. Truex was able to add more playoff points with that victory bringing his total to 34.
“It’s so hard to let guys pass you for the lead and you just got to listen to your crew chief and luckily for me I have the best one in the business and I believe him so much.” Truex told NBC Sports in victory lane.
Noteworthy Nuggets from Today’s Race
On lap 45, Kyle Busch made a move to the inside of Keselowski that sent both Busch and Keselowski around and into the run-off area. Keselowski would rebound from the spin by leading the final few laps of the race before having to pit for fuel. Meanwhile, Busch told his crew chief that he would get the No. 2 car if he can get to him.
This wouldn’t be the first time these two have had a problem at “The Glen”. Back in 2012, Keselowski got into each other in the esses on the final lap. Keselowski would go on to race Marcos Ambrose for the win, but would come up short, finishing second. The following year the two would go at it on the final lap, but this time Busch would leave New York with the victory. Also, one can’t forget the two incidents last season, in which Busch made a risky move on the final restart and then he’d move up the track into Keselowski ending both drivers run for the victory.
Another Disappointing Finish for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS went behind the wall after just 20 laps when Dale Earnhardt Jr. experienced trouble with the valve-train when a push rod went through the valve cover. The weekend wasn’t a very good one for Jr. to begin with, as he finished 26th in first practice and 31st in final practice. Earnhardt Jr. qualified 28th, his worst start since the first Pocono race back in June.
After the issues, Earnhardt Jr. had his seventh DNF this season. He currently sits 23rd in points, which means he probably won’t make the playoffs based on points. Now he will be approaching a few tracks where he has had previous success (Michigan, Bristol, and Richmond). When OnPitRoad.com spoke with Jr. last weekend at Pocono, he seemed pretty confident in his final trip to Michigan next weekend.
Another Victory for Truex Jr. Benefits Points Racers
While Matt Kenseth watched Truex Jr. go on to win the race, a sigh of relief had to come from drivers like Kenseth, Bowyer, Elliott, and a few other drivers who are looking to point their way into the playoffs when the regular season gets the checkered flag in just four races.
Currently, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth are in, while Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Daniel Suarez, and Erik Jones are out. All of these drivers have to be praying that repeat winners will continue to steal victories and that they can find themselves in one of those three remaining spots when the checkered flag falls in Richmond.
NASCAR Inspection Report
NASCAR Post race inspection is complete. There were no on track issues this weekend and the No. 78, No. 20, and No. 14 will be sent to NASCAR R&D for further inspection this week. An overall penalty report, should any of happened this weekend, should be revealed on Wednesday.