NASCAR Barometer: Truex Grabs Third Martinsville Win

NASCAR Barometer: Truex Grabs Third Martinsville Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Rain during the first caution period of Saturday's Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 forced the majority of the race to be run Sunday afternoon. Ryan Blaney took the helm from the restart and went on to win both opening stages. The top four drivers (Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott) finished in the same positions in both segments, setting the stage for a four-way fight for the win. However, Blaney slipped with a mistake on pit road. That left Truex, Hamlin and Elliott to race for the win, with Truex making the winning move on teammate Hamlin 16 laps from the finish. The No. 19 then drove away to the checkered flag, leaving Hamlin and Elliott to battle for the runner-up spot. Truex led just 20 laps to capture his second victory of the season, whereas Blaney and Hamlin combined to lead 433 of the 500 run. Up next is the third short track visit in as many races. Richmond Raceway will host its first of two scheduled races this season after holding just one event in 2020's altered schedule. Brad Keselowski was the victor last September in the playoffs.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr.Martin Truex Jr. only led 20 laps Sunday at Martinsville, but it was enough to win after taking the lead from teammate Denny Hamlin with 16 laps to go. Truex was fast all afternoon and finished third in both opening stages before winning his second race of the

Rain during the first caution period of Saturday's Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 forced the majority of the race to be run Sunday afternoon. Ryan Blaney took the helm from the restart and went on to win both opening stages. The top four drivers (Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott) finished in the same positions in both segments, setting the stage for a four-way fight for the win. However, Blaney slipped with a mistake on pit road. That left Truex, Hamlin and Elliott to race for the win, with Truex making the winning move on teammate Hamlin 16 laps from the finish. The No. 19 then drove away to the checkered flag, leaving Hamlin and Elliott to battle for the runner-up spot. Truex led just 20 laps to capture his second victory of the season, whereas Blaney and Hamlin combined to lead 433 of the 500 run. Up next is the third short track visit in as many races. Richmond Raceway will host its first of two scheduled races this season after holding just one event in 2020's altered schedule. Brad Keselowski was the victor last September in the playoffs.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr.Martin Truex Jr. only led 20 laps Sunday at Martinsville, but it was enough to win after taking the lead from teammate Denny Hamlin with 16 laps to go. Truex was fast all afternoon and finished third in both opening stages before winning his second race of the season and becoming the first driver to win multiple races this season. The win was Truex's third at the track and third in the last four visits. Up next is another short track where Truex has two career victories from 29 starts. He finished first or second in each of the last three races there and third or better in the last four. Truex is becoming one of the greats on short tracks and should be full of momentum ahead of this week's race.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney started at the front for the restart following the rain delay and used that position to leap out front and dominate the opening stage. He then went on to use that track position to dominate the second stage and hold off Hamlin in a sprint to the finish. His good fortune didn't carry him through to the finish, however. A pit penalty forced him to the back of the field with less than 50 laps remaining in the race, which was too much for him to overcome. When all was said and done, Blaney left with an 11th-place finish on a day he may have been able to challenge for the win. The Penske Racing driver has yet to score a top-15 finish at Richmond despite nine career starts at the track. 

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin was one of the fastest cars Sunday afternoon in Martinsville but couldn't match Ryan Blaney through the first two stages. After getting out front in the final stage, it appeared as though the race was his to take, but teammate Truex made the pass for the lead after a late restart and battle, and drove away in the final laps. That left Hamlin to fight Elliott for the runner-up position, which he lost out on and finished third despite leading 276 of 500 laps. Despite not having a victory yet this season, Hamlin still has more points than any other driver. He heads to Richmond on a streak of five consecutive finishes of fourth or better, too. Hamlin has three wins from 28 Richmond starts and finished 28th in the only visit to the track last season.

Kyle Larson – Martinsville was never a great venue for Larson. His best finish of third came all the way back in 2016, and he's had only one top-10 there since. That trend may have ended with his move to Hendrick Motorsports. Larson drove well Sunday to get stage points in the opening segment and then go on to finish fifth, his best finish at the track since 2016 and third top-five finish in the last five races. Larson is showing himself to be a contender for wins each week, which could make him a championship threat later this season, too. Larson won at Richmond in 2017 and has three top-10 finishes from the four races at the track since that victory. Fantasy owners should feel confident grabbing him each week regardless of the track.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Busch – Busch missed out on points in the first stage Sunday afternoon, but he worked his way into the top 10 to capture a few in the second. He never fully established himself in the top 10 and then spun after contact with less than 200 laps left. That wasn't the end of the afternoon, though. He was also part of an incident with Chris Buescher that triggered a late red flag. While it wasn't a smooth day for the No. 18, he still managed to salvage a top-10 finish. Without the problems, he'll wonder what might have been possible. Richmond has been good to the former champion, however. He has six wins from 30 career starts and swept victories at the circuit in 2018. He was sixth there last season with four laps led.

Kurt Busch – An early spin put Busch behind in the order early Sunday afternoon, but his quickness got him back through the field. He fought throughout the afternoon to work his way back into contention before a tire rub forced him to pit road under green, which dropped him right back to the rear again. He ended the afternoon two laps down in 21st position on an afternoon he probably had the speed to contend for a top-10 finish. He holds the final playoff position in the championship standings as he focuses on Richmond this week. He won twice at the track in his career but hasn't finished in the top 10 since 2017. He hasn't finished in the top 10 since Homestead and hasn't finished in the top 15 since Phoenix.

Brad Keselowski – Sunday was an eventful afternoon for Keselowski, and not in a good way. The Penske Racing driver finished in the top 10 in each opening stage but found himself in a spin and down the running order. That loss of position proved detrimental as a multicar pile up on the back straight caught Keselowski in the sandwich and put him straight out of the race. His 33rd-place finish was his second finish outside of the top 25 in the last three races. Both of his teammates have wins already this season, which puts additional pressure on Keselowski to overcome his current poor run of form. He is a two-time Richmond winner, though. He led 192 laps to win there last season and has led 30 or more laps in the last four races there.

Alex Bowman – Things had started to get rolling for Bowman. He went into the Martinsville weekend with a third-place finish in Atlanta and a top-15 the week prior at Phoenix. He started the season slowly but was starting to get his feet under him. He finished in the top 10 in both opening stages and seemed likely to head home with a top-10 finish. He was one of the many cars involved in the multicar stack-up in the final stage, though. Front end damage put him immediately out of the race and gave him his third finish outside of the top 20 in the last five races. The rebuilding effort continues this week in Richmond. He scored his first top-10 at the track last season.

Daniel Suarez – Suarez came crashing back down to earth Sunday at the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 after the high of leading and finishing fourth two weeks ago on the Bristol dirt track. The weekend's start was a preview of things to come after crew chief Travis Mack was ejected for a ballast infraction. That also sent Suarez to the back of the field at a circuit where track position is one of the most important success factors. Suarez missed out on stage points in both segments and then was part of the back-straight pileup that put many drivers out of the race, including him. His 32nd-place finish was his lowest since the Daytona 500. Trackhouse Racing has another chance to be competitive this week, however. Suarez has three Richmond top-10s from seven tries.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Christopher Bell – It feels awkward to put Bell down as a surprise success after his strong start to the season, but he was good enough to overcome terrible track position to start and walked away with a top-10 finish. He started 23rd on the tight Martinsville Speedway but made it all the way to 10th by the end of the first stage. He led nine laps in the final stage and may have led even more had he started higher in the order. Bell has already won this year, and his seventh-place finish Sunday evening was his third top-10 in the last five races. He started 26th and finished 15th at Richmond last season, too. So, this could be a week fantasy players want to make him a top choice.

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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.
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