Martin Truex Jr. Dominates Auto Club 400 from Start to Finish

Written By: Robert Henry
Fontana, CA – No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. in the Bass Pro Shops/5-Hour Energy Toyota car takes home the checkered flag after starting in pole position and winning both stages.  He is the first driver to do this at the Auto Club 400.  Truex Jr. lead the race for 125 laps today, and at the end of the race, he was 11.69 seconds faster than No. 42 Kyle Larson in the DC Solar Chevrolet car who came in second.  This places Truex Jr. in the first place position with 216 points.

Truex Jr. started the day in pole position, and in the beginning of the race No. 4, Kevin Harvick in the Busch Beer Ford car was challenging Truex Jr. for the top spot.  During the 38th lap, Harvick collied with Larson which send Harvick into the wall.  This collision caused the first caution flag of the day to be waved. Larson was confident that although the accident seemed bad, it wasn’t going to cause issues for both drivers going forward in the race.  In the 47th lap No. 48, Jimmie Johnson in the Lowe’s For Pros Chevrolet pushed his way from the 33rd place up to 6th giving the top five drivers a scare early on.  During the 49th lap No. 12, Ryan Blaney in the PPG Ford car hit the wall, as he exited the fourth turn causing him to immediately go into pit road to deal with the damages.  At the end of stage one, Truex Jr. takes the number one position followed by No. 18 Kyle Busch in the Interstate Batteries Toyota, No. 22 Joey Logano in the Auto Club of Southern California Ford, No. 2 Brad Keselowski in the Wurth Ford, and Larson rounding out the top five drivers.

The start of stage two Logano was able to overtake Truex Jr. and take the number one spot.  Not long after, in the 73rd lap, Truex Jr. was able to fly pass Logano and reclaim his top position.  Moments later in the 81st lap Busch battles with Logano for the second place spot.  Busch was successful in his passing of Logano, by passing him on the high side of the track.  Although Busch was able to pass Logano, he was still about 3.6 seconds behind Truex Jr.  In the 91st lap Busch was able to close the gap and pass Truex Jr., and just moments later No. 1 Jamie McMurray in the McDonalds car passed Truex Jr. taking the second place position from him.  The pass by McMurray was impressive, but it only took Truex Jr. three laps to not only get back into second, but Truex Jr. took the number one position. Larson, Logano, and Busch were close behind Truex Jr. in the 94th lap, but the distance between the other four was about to be extended.  In the 100th lap of the race, Truex Jr. pushed his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-Hour Energy Toyota car to give himself a 5.8-second lead ahead of the second place spot.  Four laps later Busch powered his way past Larson to take the second place spot.  A few laps later No. 6 Trevor Bayne in the Performance Plus Ford car was tapped in the rear, which sent him flying into the sidewall causing the second caution flag to be waved.  When asked about the hit into the wall Bayne said, “That’s the hardest hit I’ve ever had in my life.”  The end of stage two Truex Jr. take the first place position with Keselowski, Busch, No. 11 Denny Hamlin in the FedEx Express Toyota car, and No. 20 Erik Jones in the SiriusXM Toyota car bringing in the top five.

Johnson at the beginning of stage 3 nearly crashed but takes to the veteran status he was able to maintain the skidding he was doing and regain control and power on.  Only veteran drivers can go 150 mph skid and regain control with no real consequences to the skid.  During laps, 136th to 141st 78 Truex Jr. was out of the top three, but in the 142nd lap, he made his presence known.  Truex Jr. was able to take over Keselowski for the second place position sitting right behind Busch. Six laps later in the 148th lap, Larson overpowered Logano to take the 4th position, but it wasn’t an easy task for # 42.  In the 157th lap, Truex Jr. closed the gap that 18 Busch had to just 0.202 seconds and in only four laps Truex Jr was in the lead.  The 178th lap Truex Jr. had a 4.1 second lead on Busch, and that lead would continue to grow until the very last lap where Turex Jr was 11.68 seconds ahead of the closest driver.

It was a great day for the No. 78 car and his crew today.  Not only did they clinch the pole position spot for the race but they won every stage and the overall race.  With this win, this puts Truex Jr. on top of the leaderboard for points as well as giving him 7 playoff points.

When asked about how much do races come down to not making mistakes Truex Jr. stated that; “Well, I mean, every race if you make a mistake, you’re screwed.  Every single one of them there’s opportunities for those things to happen.”

Truex Jr. was clearly having a great race today with minimal to no errors, which is why it was so hard to catch up to him in the last stage.

The next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is scheduled for March 25th at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.

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