DARLINGTON, S.C. – Martin Truex Jr. put together one of the more dominant races of his NASCAR Cup Series career to win Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway.
Leading 248 of 293 laps in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, Truex swept all three stages at The Track Too Tough To Tame en route to his 30th career Cup Series win and series-leading third victory of the year. It was the fifth time he’s led more than 200 laps in a Cup Series race in his career.
Sunday marked Truex’s second Darlington victory at NASCAR’s top level and he remains the only driver to have multiple victories through the first 12 races of the season.
He also became the first driver to win a stage and go on to win a race at Darlington since the advent of stage racing in 2017.
“I’m glad we could accomplish that,” Truex said in victory lane. “We have won a bunch of stages [here] over these last few years – just Lady Luck always got us. Track position … it would be one thing or another. I’m extremely proud of everyone on this Auto Owners Camry.
“We just had a good balance. The car would do what I wanted it to do. I just had to manage those long runs,” Truex added. “We are really lucky to get to do this. I’m so lucky to get to drive for these guys. What an awesome team we have. Hopefully, we can keep this rolling.”
Truex’s Auto Owner’s Insurance paint scheme on Sunday carried a matte black base as opposed to the sponsor’s usual navy undertone, a nod to Truex’s championship-winning days at the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing organization.
“I think this flat black is a throwback to you, Regan (Smith), when you won here,” Truex said, a grin lacing his features. “It’s really cool to throwback to Furniture Row. Hopefully Barney Visser (owner, Furniture Row Racing) is watching. … This one is for Furniture Row. It’s pretty cool.”
Truex was rarely challenged throughout the day, particularly flexing his muscle during the second stage Sunday, when he took the green-and-white checkered flag in front of second place by 14.516 seconds.
However, following his final pit stop with 36 laps left, Truex had to survive a bit of pressure from Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson before he could fully breathe easy in the waning moments.
Larson pitted a lap sooner than Truex during the final cycle of service, coming out a second and a half behind his rival and quickly moving into contention, smelling “blood in the water” as he chased his first Darlington triumph.
The Elk Grove, Calif., native got within half a second of Truex at 29 to go and then again inside of 15 to go, before cutting three-wide through traffic to pass Ryan Newman and Tyler Reddick with eight laps left in a last-ditch effort to keep pace with Truex down the stretch.
By that point, however, the effort and extra punishment on Larson’s tires was clear and he had nothing left to fight with. Truex powered away over the final five laps to win by 2.571 seconds in the end.
“My car was really loose that last run. I was nervous when the 5 (Kyle Larson) was catching us,” Truex noted. “We got mired in some traffic there, and that’s always tough. We hung on to it, though.”
Behind Truex and Larson, Kyle Busch was third, while William Byron crossed the line a distant fourth – a full 17 seconds adrift of the race-winning entry.
Denny Hamlin closed the top five, followed by Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher, who was the last car on the lead lap in ninth place at the finish.
Ryan Newman, the first car a lap off the pace, finished 10th for his first top-10 on an intermediate track since the 2019 season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
Amid Truex’s dominance, there were 19 lead changes among 10 different drivers, with six caution flags slowing the pace for 36 laps. The final stage, however, ran uninterrupted for 100 laps to the finish.
Aric Almirola crashing on the backstretch on lap six, a similar incident for Cole Custer on lap 99 and a crash on the frontstretch for Kurt Busch at lap 107 were the three cautions for incident Sunday.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action May 16 at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway with the Drydene 400. Kevin Harvick is the most recent Cup Series winner at the one-mile, high-banked concrete oval.