NASCAR Barometer: Truex Grabs First Win This Year

NASCAR Barometer: Truex Grabs First Win This Year

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Martin Truex Jr. did not dominate the first NASCAR Cup series at Martinsville Speedway under the lights, but he drove to the lead and eased to his fourth short-track win in six tries. Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson won the opening stages while Truex ran consistently among the leaders. It was in the final stage that Truex took the helm and worked to his first win of the season. The triumph at the  Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 was in stark contrast to teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch who never came to speed to challenge for top finishes. The victory adds one more Joe Gibbs Racing driver to the playoffs and gives Truex extra confidence with his new crew chief for the 2020 season as they build their program for a championship challenge.

With no time to take a breath, the NASCAR Cup series now turns its attention to Homestead-Miami Speedway. The venue was the traditional site of the season finale but was pulled forward in the 2020 season calendar as Phoenix rotates to the finale position. Kyle Busch won last fall's visit to the circuit as he claimed his second series championship.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex led 132 laps at Martinsville Wednesday night to win for the second time at the circuit. After years of struggling on the short tracks, Truex now has now won four of the last six races on the configuration. He has also consistently demonstrated speed to lead and win this season,

Martin Truex Jr. did not dominate the first NASCAR Cup series at Martinsville Speedway under the lights, but he drove to the lead and eased to his fourth short-track win in six tries. Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson won the opening stages while Truex ran consistently among the leaders. It was in the final stage that Truex took the helm and worked to his first win of the season. The triumph at the  Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 was in stark contrast to teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch who never came to speed to challenge for top finishes. The victory adds one more Joe Gibbs Racing driver to the playoffs and gives Truex extra confidence with his new crew chief for the 2020 season as they build their program for a championship challenge.

With no time to take a breath, the NASCAR Cup series now turns its attention to Homestead-Miami Speedway. The venue was the traditional site of the season finale but was pulled forward in the 2020 season calendar as Phoenix rotates to the finale position. Kyle Busch won last fall's visit to the circuit as he claimed his second series championship.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex led 132 laps at Martinsville Wednesday night to win for the second time at the circuit. After years of struggling on the short tracks, Truex now has now won four of the last six races on the configuration. He has also consistently demonstrated speed to lead and win this season, but tended to fall off in the closing stages of a race. That changed on Wednesday as he worked his way forward to close the win in convincing fashion. Truex won the race and the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2017. He finished in the runner-up position at the track in both 2018 and 2019, too. Having a win under his belt in 2020 could open the floodgates to more for him in the near future.

Joey Logano – Logano carried his short-track pace from Bristol right into the start at Martinsville. The Penske Racing driver dominated the opening stage and took the segment win. He led 234 total laps in Wednesday night's race and finished fourth with both of his teammates finishing ahead of him. It was an impressive feat to have all three Penske drivers finish in the top five, but they could not match Truex on the night. Like Truex, Logano also won at Homestead in his championship season. His 2018 win there is just one of his five consecutive finishes of sixth or better at the track. In total he has six top-10s from 11 career starts there with an average finish of 12.7.

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson finally started to reap the benefits of the increased pace he has shown much of this season by winning the second stage of Wednesday's race at Martinsville. The nine-time track winner drove to the lead in that stage and then pulled away to the segment victory. He led 70 laps in total and finished 10th at the end of the night after slipping back after opting to not pit in favor of track position in the final stage. The top 10 was his sixth of the season so far and third in succession since Bristol, though. Johnson has a Homestead win from 2016 but hasn't finished in the top 10 there in the two visits since. His average finish at the track is 14.0 from 19 starts.

Ryan Blaney – Penske Racing as a whole had a terrific night in Martinsville, and Blaney was the one who sat atop the teammates with a runner-up finish to Truex. He started the race on pole position after the random draw and then went on to prove himself inside the top five throughout the 500 laps. The top-five was Blaney's fourth in the last five races and was his best finish at Martinsville. There may not be a more consistent driver in the series at the moment, and it seems like just a matter of time before he joins his teammates with a race win in the 2020 season. Blaney's best Homestead finish came last season when he raced to 11th position. Fantasy owners could reasonably expect him to better that result this weekend.

Chase Elliott – Arguably one of the fastest cars this season so far has been Elliott's No. 9 machine. The second-generation driver has one win already and could have had more if luck had been more on his side earlier in the season. Wednesday's race at Martinsville was not one of his fastest races this season, but it was another example of how even on a slightly less competitive night he's still capable of delivering top-five finishes. He has posted three top-fives and four top-10s in the last five races including his win at Charlotte. There is no doubt that Elliott is a reliable fantasy option each week at this point. At Homestead he has two top-fives from four career starts and is likely to be there again this weekend.

DOWNGRADE

Austin Dillon – Dillon had A.J. Allmendinger on standby Wednesday night in case he had to leave to be present for the birth of his first child. His race barely started when a cut tire ripped apart the rear corner of his car and sent him to pit road for extensive repairs. The damage included the crush panels in the wheel well that then allowed exhaust fumes into the cockpit for the remainder of the night. Ultimately, Dillon was unable to soldier on and parked the car after about 400 laps were complete finishing in 37th position. This week's race in Miami could be a good chance for him to put Wednesday's trouble behind him, though. He finished 14th or better in five of his six Homestead starts.

Aric Almirola – Three consecutive front-row starts for Aric Almirola have produced a best finish of just 17th. With the help of the random draw, Almirola has now started second in the last three races but has yet to convert those starts into top finishes. He has no top-fives and just three top-10s this season and has been slipping down the playoff standings each week. At Martinsville he struggled with a battery, leaving him 33rd on the night for his third finish in the last five races of 20th or lower. Those are not typical numbers for Almirola or his Stewart-Haas Racing team. Something is amiss, and the No. 10 crew needs to rectify it quickly to stop Almirola's fall down the standings. Fantasy owners will want to proceed with caution on Almirola until that trend reverses.

Denny Hamlin – Wednesday was not a good night for Hamlin. Martinsville is usually a track where the Joe Gibbs Racing driver can succeed, and he was one of the top picks heading into the first night race at his home circuit. Those expectations fizzled early as Hamlin struggled in the opening miles and even found himself down three laps to the leaders by the finish of the second stage. Throughout the race distance he barely scratched the top 20, ultimately ending the frustrating night 24th. While one off race should not be a major concern for Hamlin (he has two wins this season and is focused on the playoffs), fantasy owners have to weigh the team's long-term focus on the championship against the short-term opportunities for wins.

Kyle Busch – Like teammate Hamlin, Busch had a night to forget in Martinsville. The Toyota driver is still searching for his first win of the season and was down two laps to the leaders by the end of the second stage Wednesday evening. Busch eventually pulled one of those laps back before the finish but was only able to muster a finish of 19th. That result was the second in the last five races where he failed to finish in the top 15, too. With six top-fives so far this season, there is no reason to write Busch off, but fantasy owners are missing his usual race-winning form. This weekend's return to Homestead-Miami Speedway could be good timing, though. Busch won there last season to take home his second series championship.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Matt DiBenedetto – In 10 Martinsville starts heading into Wednesday's race, DiBenedetto had only managed a best finish of 16th in 2019. That finish was just his second top-20 at the circuit. After racing inside the top 15 for the majority of the night, he earned a seventh-place finish to reverse his statistics at the track. The top-10 finish is DiBendetto's first since Darlington and third of the season. He sits 13th in the playoff standings with a 14-point lead on Aric Almirola and just 10 points behind Clint Bowyer. A similar tale could play out this weekend in Miami. His best finish at that track in five starts is a 20th-place finish from last season, which is another mark he could surpass.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
Coca-Cola 600 Preview: Memorial Day Marathon
Coca-Cola 600 Preview: Memorial Day Marathon