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June 10, 2020

Martin Truex Jr. surges to first victory of the season, his second straight at Martinsville

Martin Truex Jr. won his second consecutive Martinsville Speedway race Wednesday night, ultimately cruising to a 4.232-second victory over a trio of Team Penske cars in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500.

Compared to his dominating victory at the half-mile track last fall (when he led 464 of 500 laps), Truex had to negotiate and muscle his way to the front this time.

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“We’ve been working a long time on trying to figure this place out and just been chipping away at it,” said Truex, who drives the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.

“The last couple years we’ve been really strong; 2018 was a heartbreaker at the end of the race there. Last year to get the win and this year, hats off to the guys.”

All three Team Penske cars hounded Truex and kept him honest, ready to seize upon any late race lapse in concentration. But the 2017 series champion was strong and determined, earning his first victory of the season in the first official NASCAR Cup Series night race since the historic track installed lights in 2017.

Penske teammates Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished second, third and fourth. They combined to lead 273 laps with Logano’s 234 laps out front the most for any driver on the night.

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman finished fifth and sixth. Matt DiBenedetto, whose iconic Wood Brothers Racing team hails from Virginia, finished seventh. William Byron, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top 10.

Bubba Wallace, who drove the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports, earned his career-best NASCAR Cup Series finish at Martinsville (11th) — he and Johnson had a close competition for the 10th position in the final laps.

“All in all, great job to come here and execute with no practice,” said Wallace, who has two NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series wins at Martinsville. “My favorite place and it just continues to show.

“I’ll tell you what was badass was to race with ole seven-time (Johnson) there at the end. You think Jimmie Johnson wins so many times here and we’re running him down. Hats off to my guys. Good job fellows.”

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At times it felt like three distinctive races in one. Logano won the first stage handily. Johnson won the second stage — his 70 laps out front the most he’s led in a single race since 2017. And then Truex took control of the third stage and was able to keep the field at bay and pull out to a comfortable lead. It was a tame night by short track standards with seven total caution periods — three for single-car incidents on track.

Truex’s good fortune was in stark contrast to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates who suffered through a long night of frustration. Reigning series champion Kyle Busch went a lap down early and finished 19th, just ahead of teammate Erik Jones. Denny Hamlin — a two-race winner in 2020 — reported problems with his No. 11 Toyota almost immediately after the green flag dropped and went three laps down by night’s end, finishing 24th.

Tyler Reddick’s 16th-place finish in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet made him the top-finishing Sunoco rookie.

Kevin Harvick’s 15th-place finish marked only the second time in the season’s 11 races that he did not finish among the top 10, but it was still good enough to retain the championship lead — by 28 points over Joey Logano and 47 points on third place Chase Elliott.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race, the Dixie Vodka 400, is Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

MORE: Homestead-Miami Speedway weekend schedule