MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr is guaranteed a spot in the NASCAR Championship Four after dominating the First Data 400 Monster Energy Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Truex, the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, started third and led 464-laps en route to the victory. The win was Truex’s first at Martinsville, seventh of 2019 and 26th of his career.
“I can’t believe we won Martinsville,” exclaimed Truex after the win. “We’ve really wanted to win here for a long time. I’m just proud of everybody for giving me a race car like that. To get a Grandfather clock if pretty special.”
Hendrick Motorsports William Byron finished second, the best finish of his young career.
“This is a place that I have loved coming to and it clicked,” said Byron. “I wouldn’t race him (Truex) dirty but I’m really hungry for my first win but he ran such a good race.”
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski finished third followed by pole sitter Denny Hamlin with Penske’s Ryan Blaney rounding out the top 5.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch finished sixth followed by Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick.
“That last restart I got stuck on the outside and lost a spot,” said Harvick. “We were able to minimize the damage there and make something out of the day.”
Team Penske’s Joey Logano finished eighth with Ganassi’s Kyle Larson in ninth. Larson leaves Martinsville in 7th place in the playoffs, 24-points behind the 4th place cutoff.
Maximized our points today. Still have a lot of work to do to get better day but happy to get a top 10. Ready for Texas!
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) October 28, 2019
Hamlin and Logano and their crews got into an altercation on pit road after the race. The pair got together on a restart with Hamlin on the inside of Logano coming off turn four, squeezing Logano into the wall. Logano cut a tire, bringing out the caution and sending the No. 22 Pennzoil Mustang to pit road for repairs.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 27, 2019
“We were having a discussion, everything was civil and then like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away,” said Hamlin. “He said, ‘do you want to go’ and I said, ‘yes I’m here’ and then he runs away. I got close off of turn 4, we got together, and it looks like collateral damage he blew a tire.”
“I just wanted to talk to him about it,” said Logano. “He wasn’t really apologetic at all. He kind of came off the corner like there wasn’t another car on the outside of him. Once he started hitting me, he didn’t lift and kept finishing me off. Ruined our day. We had a top 5 for sure coming our way.”
The race was disastrous for Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott. Elliott entered the race in 6th place in the NASCAR playoffs, blew an engine early in the first practice, started from the rear of the field and worked his way into the top 10 after the races first stage.
Leaving the pits following the ensuing pit stop, Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet suffered a mechanical failure in the rear end, sending him to the garage. Elliott returned to the race 52-laps down and finished 36th. Elliott now sits in the 8th and last place of all the playoff drivers with two races remaining in this round.
The next race in the round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is next Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Chip Ganassi Fined And Suspended By NASCAR
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team owner Chip Ganassi ended up on the NASCAR penalty report following this weekend’s events at Daytona International Speedway.
Ganassi was fined $30,000 and suspended from the next NASCAR Cup Series Championship Points Event which is Sunday at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Ganassi violated section 12.8.1.b of the NASCAR Rule Book “for bringing into the competition area a non-essential individual that was restricted from the footprint”, essentially brining someone not authorized inside the ‘bubble’ which part of the sanctioning body’s COVID-19 protocol.
Chip Ganassi Racing will be permitted to enter their cars, the No. 1 Monster Energy/Gearwrench Chevrolet driven by Kurt Busch and the No. 42 McDonald/Clover Camaro driven by Ross Chastain, in the event.
Christopher Bell Wins NASCAR Cup Series Road Course Race At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Christopher Bell picked up his first NASCAR Cup Series win in Sunday’s road course race at Daytona International Speedway.
Bell passed leader Joey Logano with two laps to go to give Joe Gibbs Racing their second win of the weekend. JGR’S Ty Gibbs won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.
“I knew I was faster than him,” said Bell. “I ran him down from a while back. All I had to do was get a couple good corners and get away. The last thing I wanted was coming down to the checkered flag with him on my bumper.”
“I was trying to keep him (Bell) behind me,” said Logano. “We gambled by staying out and I’d say it paid off overall, but you just hate being so close. He started catching me a second a lap and it wasn’t like I blew any corners or anything. We just got beat, plain and simple.”
JGR’s Denny Hamlin started fourth and finished third in the No. 11 Toyota and said he just didn’t have the speed of the frontrunners.
“For me, I’m stuck at par right now,” said Hamlin, an avid golfer off the track. “I can’t break par. I’m just right there third to fourth fastest, and that’s where I’m at. I think the more times I run, the tighter that gap is going to get.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch rallied from an off-track excursion while leading the race to finish fourth.
“I just crossed over that fine line of grip,” said Busch. “The tires, at this track with the worn out asphalt of the infield section, it’s really easy to step over that line. Matt McCall (crew chief) and all my guys, they had an awesome day on pit road, strategy wise and with their (pit) stops to get us that track position and to get us back up front.”
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 5.
“It was a front, back, front, back kind of race, but the Discount Tire team, we just didn’t give up and kept working on it,” said Keselowski. “Eventually, the race came to us. We caught some breaks for sure and made the most of it. It was just one of those never-give-up kind of races.”
The race featured 12-lead changes among 7 drivers and 8-caution flags for 12-laps.
The Series concludes the early season Florida swing next Sunday, February 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain Ready For Road Course Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain are looking forward to turning left and right at this Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on the road course at Daytona International Speedway.
Chastain will start ninth thanks in part to a seventh place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, his first Cup Series start in the No. 42 Chevrolet.
“A great way to kick off the year with this No. 42 car,” said Chastain. “We tore it up at the end – hit the wall a ton coming to the checkered, but still finished seventh. We got a few stage points. Thank you to everyone at Clover, McDonald’s, AdventHealth, Caregility. I still have some learning to do.”
Busch will start 17th on Sunday after being an innocent victim of a lap 14 accident. The accident was triggered when Christopher Bell attempted to bump draft Aric Almirola but did not hit him cleanly and subsequently sending Almirola into the wall in front of the rest of the field.
“All those boys started pushing way too hard, way too early, and we got wrapped up in it,” reflected Busch. “Got stuck in the mud, had too much damage and never really got to race. We had to ride around all day.”
Busch ultimately finished 22nd, which left him sitting in 20th place in the Cup Series drivers points standings.
“We’ll dig out of this hole,” said Busch, the 2004 Cup Series Champion. We’re a great team; we’re ready for this.”
The green flag is schedule to drop at 3 p.m.