RICHMOND, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s (JGR) Martin Truex Jr is sitting atop the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standing after winning the Federated Auto Parts 400 Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.
The victory was the 2nd straight in the NASCAR Playoffs for Truex, who won last week at Las Vegas. Truex also led a 1-2-3 sweep of the top spots for JGR, leading Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to the checkered flag.
“What a job the team did,” said Truex. “I mean, it’s just unbelievable. To win this way is pretty incredible. I’ve never done anything like that in my life. We had to keep working on it all night. We had good speed, but it was just a matter of staying up with it and adjusting. It’s hard when you’re racing your teammates and they’re looking at what you’re doing and you’re looking at what they’re doing and those are the guys you’re racing. Just an awesome night for JGR.”
“We led a lot of laps,” said Busch, who led the most laps (202). “We were up front a lot. But when I was out front, he (Truex) could keep the closest distance to me. That kind of worried me for a finish like that in the long run. I don’t think we were as good as him all night long. Martin, the car, the combination thereof, us, the combination of, just lacked a little bit. You know, like the 11 lacked a little bit more than us.”
“Just seemed like the long run speed they (Truex & 19 Team) really had quite a bit more and a little bit more turn, a little bit more forward drive, just everything — every little bit,” said Hamlin. “It just seemed like it was about a half a tenth a lap there on average, and the 19 just had a really good long run car. We were kind of third best there, that’s kind of where we ended up.”
The finish would have been a 1-2-3-4 for JGR but the No. 20 of Erik Jones, who crossed the finish line in fourth place, failed post race inspection and as a result was penalized with a 40th and last place finish.
“There’s fairly critical measurements on the rear wheel alignment that have to be followed, so there’s any number of things that the team could do or not do to make it fail,” said Jay Fabian, Managing Director of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. “Standard process as a race, we give a pretty strong allowance on what they can run pre-race to post-race, and it’s crept out of that range. Rear wheel steer and alignment is important as a critical factor in downforce. It’s an aero benefit to get more skew in the rear, so we keep those parameters pretty tight so that everybody is racing with the same thing, and that’s the key to running all 16 cars through there.”
The post-race failure of the 20-car moved everyone else up a spot in the final standings meaning Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski finished fourth followed by Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman in fifth.
“We just weren’t quite as fast as the Gibbs cars,” said Keselowski, who started on the pole. “We could get a little short-run speed but then we’d be a little bit slower on the long-run. We tried to trade a little bit of short-run for long-long and we got a little bit of long-run but we gave up all of our short-run advantage.”
“I’m proud of our finish, I’m proud of the teamwork,” said Newman. “We did get some stage points tonight, which has been our biggest weakness the entire season. Just fighting hard. We’re making strides, albeit late in the season, but we’re making gains and we’ll just keep working on it.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson finished sixth followed by a trio of Stewart-Haas Racing Fords; Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez. Hendrick Motorsports Jimmie Johnson rounded out the Top-10.
The NASCAR Playoffs move onto “The Roval” at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Sunday, September 29th, where four drivers will be eliminated and only the Top 12 will advance to Round 2.