In defiance of conventional wisdom, it wasn’t an experienced dirt racer who won Monday’s twice-rain-delayed Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Nor was it a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular who took the checkered flag.
When the dust settled, Martin Truex Jr. was the unlikely occupant of Victory Lane-and a dominant one at that. Racing in the Camping World Truck Series for the first time since 2006, Truex led 105 of the 150 laps in an action-filled race that featured 12 cautions for 54 laps and saw pre-race favorite Kyle Larson and series leader John Hunter Nemechek in the garage with wrecked trucks at the finish.
RELATED: Official results
It was the first career win for Truex in his third career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, but it was the third straight victory this season for a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota — and 83rd overall. Truex is the 36th driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series.
“It’s unbelievable, really,” said Truex, who was using the Truck Series race to prepare for the NASCAR Cup Series event later on Monday afternoon. “I guess they had to put dirt on Bristol to get me back to Victory Lane here. It’s been a long time. Man, that was a blast.
“I wanted to run this race so I could get more experience with the Cup car, and we got out there in practice and it felt really good. And I was having a lot of fun, so I just kept trying to work with the guys and tell them what I needed. It was really amazing how much the track changed, but I will have to say the (No. 51 Tundra) stayed really, really good the whole time.”
Truex took control of the race after reigning series champion Sheldon Creed led Laps 2 through 39. Ben Rhodes lined up beside Truex on the front row for the final restart on Lap 139 but missed a shift, dropped briefly to third and fought his way back to the runner-up spot.
Rhodes finished 1.149 seconds behind Truex, with Todd Gilliland coming home third and Chase Briscoe and Grant Enfinger completing the top five.
“We were running them back down there the last few laps, but, yeah, just the worst restart of my life,” Rhodes said. “Early in the race, I had an issue of getting it into fourth gear and missed a shift early on, but I really didn’t think nothing of it and had clean shifts afterwards-and then just missed it. Bummer for my guys, but the closest I’ve been to winning here at Bristol was on the dirt.”
Nemechek exited after a Lap 49 crash, spinning after contact from Matt Crafton’s Ford and sustaining heavy damage when the No. 19 of Derek Kraus slid into his No. 4 Toyota as it sat near the outside wall of the half-mile high-banked speedway.
Larson was unable to avoid the slow truck of Mike Marlar on Lap 99 and sustained extensive damage to his No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet after heavy contact with the No. 30 Toyota of Danny Bohn in the same incident.
“My spotter said they were slowing down the backstretch, and a I saw some trucks slowing on the bottom, so I was running the top,” said Larson, who was set to start the subsequent NASCAR Cup Series race from the rear of the field because of an engine change in his No. 5 Chevrolet. “I thought ‘I’m going to get a lot of spots here in (Turn) 3.’ So I ended up top, and there was somebody parked there.
“We were fighting. Our truck wasn’t very great, but we were making adjustments on it … I still learned something for the Cup race, which was nice … learned how to pass people, so starting in the back, that’s a help.”
Truex, Briscoe and Larson were among six Cup Series drivers in the Truck Series field. Bubba Wallace was the next highest-finishing Cup regular in 11th. Kevin Harvick finished 15th, Daniel Suarez finished 17th and Larson finished 35th.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to action on April 17 at Richmond Raceway for the ToyotaCare 250 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NOTE: The race winning No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. passed NASCAR’s post-race inspection. There were no other issues.