Truex Takes Chase Opener

NASCAR

Truex celebrates in Victory Lane. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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Race Results | Photos | UPDATE: Cars of Truex, Johnson Fail Inspection

JOLIET, Ill. – Martin Truex Jr. opened the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a win Sunday in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Truex Jr. made a big move on the race’s final restart in overtime to get around leader Ryan Blaney and held off the field to score his third win of the season.

“The racing gods want to make it difficult on us,” Truex said. “Man, this feels good. I’m a lucky guy to be able to drive this black 78. (Crew chief) Cole Pearn, Jazzy (Team Engineer Jeff Curtis), everybody on this team, the pit crew, Barney (Team Owner Visser) for giving us everything we need.

“This is the way we wanted to start the Chase. It feels awesome.”

The victory moves Truex Jr. into the second round of the Chase.

Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Blaney and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.

“You never know,” Blaney said of the decision to stay out and not pit. “Those guys were on me so fast. We had a really good car all day. We started way back in the field and made it up there pretty quickly. We got our car decent at the end. We gambled and I prefer to do that. I prefer to take a gamble to stay out and try to hold those guys off.”

Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Alex Bowman completed the first 10 finishers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday afternoon.

How Truex Jr. Won: The day looked like it might be another example of the season Truex Jr. has had when a fast race car was erased by bad luck or mechanical issues. Early Sunday he was forced to pit road for a tire issue. But he rallied back and late in the going tried his best to rundown then leader Chase Elliott for the top spot. A late caution flew when Michael McDowell blew a tire and set up the overtime restart. When the green appeared, Truex Jr. got a great run to get by Blaney who had inherited the top spot, and then stayed ahead to score the win.

Who Had a Good Day: Blaney’s not in the Chase but matched his career-best finish of fourth for the third time…Keselowski scored his sixth straight top-10 finish at Chicagoland Speedway…Kahne has now finished in the top 10 for the third straight race of 2016…Kyle Busch and Kenseth came back from pit road speeding penalties to finish inside the top 10.

Who Had a Bad Day: Elliott once again had what looked to be a shot at his first career Sprint Cup Series win ruined by late race drama. Although he led 75 laps, the most ever in his Cup career, the McDowell caution dropped him from the lead and he wasn’t able to get back to the point in overtime and forced to settle for the third place finish…Kevin Harvick had to start from the rear of the field for an unapproved adjustment but quickly worked his way to the front. However, he was plagued by pit road issues, got caught a lap down and was never able to get back to challenge for anything but a 20th-place finish. Kyle Larson was running well until he was forced to pit road late for a cut tire. He ended up 18th.

What Else Happened: It was a fairly quiet race most of the afternoon and it appeared to be Jimmie Johnson’s day. He dominated the first half of the race until he was caught speeding on pit road. That set off a series of events that culminated with the late race caution, restart and drama that ended with Truex Jr. in Victory Lane.

Quotable: “So they just waited until someone else was the lucky dog and then threw the caution,” Kevin Harvick on his in car radio when he didn’t get the free pass on a late race caution flag.

Notables: Logano had his best Chicagoland finish in the eighth start at the track…Hamlin now has nine straight top-10 finishes….Bowman, filling in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., had his career-best finish.

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