Who … should you be talking about after the race?
Martin Truex Jr. was finally able to score his first NASCAR Cup Series win in 54 starts and almost two seasons, notching the 32nd victory of his career and his fourth at the Dover Motor Speedway.
Oddly, three of those four Dover wins have now come on a Monday following a rain postponement. But it wasn’t easy for Truex. A late race caution as a result of Joey Logano spinning set up an extra pit stop as most cars had over 60 laps on their tires at that point.
Crew chief James Small made the call to only give the leader two tires, a call that allowed Truex to beat Ryan Blaney off of pit road.
With seven laps to go on the restart, Truex spent a couple of laps racing side by side with Blaney before clearing him to claim sole ownership of the lead.
Truex then built up enough of a gap to where Ross Chastain and his four fresh tires just didn’t have enough time to chase the 2017 Cup champion down after driving up into second.
And don’t forget William Byron, who had a very strong race, leading 193 of 400 laps, winning stage one and finishing runner up in stage two.
But the No. 24 Chevrolet struggled at the start of the final stage, losing the lead for the final time on lap 285 and struggling to almost half a lap down by the time of green flag pit stops in the final stage.
Byron was able to recover in the second half of the long run and then benefitted from a great late restart to finish fourth on the day.
What… is the big question leaving this race in the rearview?
Honestly, was this the last win of Truex’s career? This was his first points-paying win in almost two years, and he definitely seemed to be flirting with retirement last year before signing back on for 2023.
It’s a very curious resume for any driver. Truex won one race in his first seven full-time seasons at the Cup level. Then, after winning two more in the three seasons after that, he exploded and won 23 and a championship in just four years’ time.
Now, in what’s probably the end stages of his career, these wins seem to be coming much more infrequently again.
If there was any historical comparison, it might be Dale Jarrett. When Jarrett won at Talladega Superspeedway in 2005, it seemed like the end of an era to go along with the retirement of ironically the guest booth analyst for today’s race, Rusty Wallace, that same year.
It was also Jarrett’s 32nd win, much like Truex’s 32nd win in this Dover race.
It remains to be seen if this is the end of the line for Truex as a race winner, but he’s definitely going to spend the next six months fighting for more, for certain.
Where…did the other key players wind up?
After qualifying was rained out, Kyle Busch was awarded the pole via metric. Busch looked strong in the opening laps, but a pit road speeding penalty took Busch out of contention quickly. The No. 8 team took a gamble by staying out ahead of the lap 89 restart but was immediately passed by Byron and was eventually lapped. Busch finished 21st, three laps down.
Defending race winner Chase Elliott had a very quiet day at Dover, which is a good day for Elliott if he is still not 100% recovered from his injury from earlier in the spring. Dover is a very fast racetrack relative to its distance with a lot of closing speed, so a solid day out of trouble was just fine from that perspective. Still, however, Elliott could only manage to finish 11th.
When…was the moment of truth?
It was extremely hard for drivers to pass each other for the lead outside of pit stops and race restarts, so when the final green flag pit stop cycle began with 75 laps to go, it seemed like the final great shot Truex had to get by leader Chastain.
Truex, who rode within half a second of Chastain prior to entering pit road, went down it alone. Chastain didn’t go down it for another two laps after Truex, but that was all the Joe Gibbs Racing driver needed to pull off a successful undercut to get by Chastain. Truex rode the clean air to build up a big lead until the final caution came out with 12 laps to go.
Truex had to hang on during the final restart, but the undercut took all of the momentum out of Chastain’s hands and gave it to Truex.
Why…should you be paying attention this week?
There was a controversial moment late in the first stage where, once again, Chastain seemed to be the propitiator.
On lap 81, Chastain was in the bottom half of the top ten and battling with Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. Chastain quickly approached the lapped No. 15 Ford of Brennan Poole and spun him out into Larson.
Larson finished the race but was 41 laps down in 32nd. Poole retired from the race and finished 33rd.
Although this incident did seem to be a legitimate mistake – there’s no reason to wreck a lapped car before lap 100 of a 400-lap race – for some, it seemed to be a case of boy crying wolf.
It would be surprising if NASCAR were to stomp its foot down finally on Chastain because of this. But don’t be surprised if this wreck is a major talking point in this short week leading up to the weekend at Kansas Speedway.
How… special was this weekend for the Truex family?
In addition to Truex’s Cup win on Monday, brother Ryan Truex put on a show on Saturday.
It was a race that ended with the younger Truex brother finally getting his first career national touring series victory after over a decade of trying.
It’s only appropriate for such a weekend to occur at Dover, not too far down the road from the family birthplace of Mayetta, New Jersey. Although New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the track that Martin Truex Sr. found the most success at in the old NASCAR Busch North Series, Dover is the closest track to Mayetta on the Cup schedule today. So of all of the infamous Truex home tracks, Dover probably really is the most genuine of them all.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.
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