May 27, 2019 | By Lee Spencer

Martin Truex Jr. returns to Victory Lane at Charlotte

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Nighttime was the right time for Martin Truex Jr.
 
After winning the third stage at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Truex told crew chief Cole Pearn he does his best work after 10 p.m.
 
The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota remained true to his word and delivered his second win in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.
 
“I don’t know how we did it honestly,” Truex said. “I blew that right-front tire earlier and hit the fence off (Turn) 4. I thought man, that’s not good. I know this car is pretty banged up. 
 
“We just fought back from it. We kept working on the car and kept adjusting on the car. We had the best car at the end.
 
Brad Keselowski crashed with 10 laps remaining in the race to set up a wild five-lap dash for the finale. David Ragan and Ryan Newman remained on the track with Truex and Kyle Busch lined up in Row 2. Busch split the front row on the restart. Truex went low and took the pack four-wide before coming out of Turn 4 with the lead—just barely.
 
Joey Logano, who restarted sixth, caught Truex in the turn and sent the No. 19 Toyota around.
 
“I had a hole in the bottom to get into (Turn) 3 and I knew that was my only shot,” Truex said. “Just barely cleared the 22 (Joey Logano) off (Turn) 4 sideways. He was on my bumper and had me sideways and I hung onto it and luckily finished it from there.”
 
Truex held off Logano by .33-seconds at the line for his third win of 2019 and the 22nd of his Cup career. 
 
“I thought we had a good shot when that caution came back out,” Logano said. “That was another chance and just didn’t quite get it, but overall, like I said, very proud of it.”
 
Kyle Busch finished third followed by Chase Elliott Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson, polesitter William Byron and Kevin Harvick.
 
Keselowski led 14 laps en route to the Stage 1 win in a segment which was slowed by five cautions—including three for right front tires on Toyotas. Byron led the first 24 laps. But Erik Jones barely completed 20 laps before he hit the Turn 4 wall. The accident proved terminal and Jones finished 40th. Twenty-five laps later, Matt DiBenedetto wrecked in Turn 2. He finished 39th. Truex was leading the race before developing a front right tire issue on Lap 73. The No. 19 plowed into the Turn 4 wall to trigger the third caution. 
 
Stenhouse was running in the top 10 when he made contact with Kyle Busch and went for a wild ride through the fronstretch turf on Lap 84. Keselowski remained in the lead until the race returned to green and Harvick passed the No. 2 Ford. Five laps later, Keselowski passed Harvick for the point—and the stage win.
 
Keselowski picked up his second stage win and his fourth of the season following the second segment. The No. 2 Team Ford remained on the track with the lead followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Byron, Johnson, Larson, Aric Almirola, Stenhouse, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon. Hamlin passed Keselowski on the restart and led 21 laps before Elliott, who had fresher tires, passed the No. 11 Toyota for the lead. Hamlin became the fourth Toyota driver to wreck when he hit the wall on Lap 161. Byron took the lead out of the pits but Keselowski passed him five laps later. 
 
Ryan Preece had tire trouble on Lap 189 and hit the Turn 1 wall to ignite Caution 9. Bowman remained on the track and took the lead from Keselowski, who pitted. Bowman led four laps before trading the point with his teammate Chase Elliott for a lap. Bowman regained the lead and led another four laps before Keselowski—who had restarted 10th—passed the No. 88 for the lead and the stage win. Bowman was second followed by Kyle Busch, Elliott, Byron, Harvick, Blaney, Kurt Busch, Logano and Larson.
 
At halftime, NASCAR held a 30-second moment of silence for the fallen soldiers on the eve of Memorial Day. The drivers came down pit road and turned off their engines. 
 
Despite the problems the Toyotas endured during the first half of the race, Truex, Kyle Busch and Hamlin came alive in the third stage. Busch led 49 laps in the stage before Truex tagged the No. 52 Ford of Bayley Currey and sent the car spinning in Turn 2. After pit stops, Truex sailed to the lead. Despite trading the point with Busch on Lap 259, the No. 19 Camry returned to the lead and beat the No. 18 to the line by 4.239-seconds. Truex led 47 laps in the segment for his second stage win of 2019. 
 
Chase Elliott won the race off of pit road to start the fourth and final stage with Truex, Kyle Busch, Blaney, Stenhouse, Kurt Busch, Bowman, Larson, Byron, Logano and Johnson in tow on Lap 308. Two laps later—while running fifth—Kurt Busch spun out of Turn 4. Miraculously, Busch straightened out the No. 1 Chevy—but not before scraping brother Kyle’s car on the frontstretch.
 
The race returned to green on Lap 310, but five laps later Larson got loose on the backstretch and Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Paul Menard and Preece were collected in the melee. Larson ended the night 33rd. 
 
Elliott continued in the lead with 76 laps to decide the contest when the race returned to green. A battle ensued between the Nos. 9 and 19. Truex caught Elliott on Lap 341. The pair made contact on the backstretch three laps later and Truex snagged the lead out of Turn 4. 
 
Truex’s 49-lap run was slowed when Hamlin spun in Turn 2 on Lap 360. He held off a charge from Logano and Ryan Blaney in the final 30 laps until the No. 12 pitted with a vibration setting up a duel between the Nos. 19 and 22. 
 
Truex would have to survive the 16th and final caution with 10 to go, for his first victory on an intermediate track this season. 
 
“What a rocket ship this Bass Pro Toyota was this weekend,” Truex said. “I felt good about it in practice, but you just don’t know and these mile-and-a-halves have been tough on us this year—kind of scratching and clawing trying to find something. Kansas a few weeks ago was really a reality check for us. It’s one of our best tracks and we really struggled there and knew we had to get to work. 
 
“Just hats off to the guys for listening to my input and what I had to say. We had a pretty good car at the All-Star race last weekend, but we knew it wasn’t good enough. They went to work this week and made it better.” 
 
Kyle Busch currently leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings on a tiebreaker over Logano. 

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