Truex wins Open, advances to All-Star race
Martin Truex, Jr. found grip on the high side and used it to pull off a three-wide pass to win Saturday night’s Nextel Open and advance into the field for the 23rd NASCAR Nextel All Star Challenge. Photo courtesy of CIA Stock Photo
Johnny Sauter finished a close second to take the second transfer spot into the All Star Challenge. Polesitter Carl Edwards was third, followed by Dave Blaney and Ricky Rudd.
Truex will start 19th in the 21-car Nextel Al Star Challenge field in the no. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Monte Carlo, making his first start in the all-star event.
“That was very cool and an awesome race,” said Truex, a two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion. “We’ve had kind of an up-and-down year, so this makes things a little better.”
The fireworks got started before the first lap was completed, as Juan Pablo Montoya chased his Dodge Charger up the banking in turn two before colliding with David Gilliland, touching off a seven-car wreck that collected Scott Riggs, Joe Nemechek, Jon Wood, Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger.
Edwards lead the first 37 laps of the 40-lap race, fending off challenges from teammate David Regan and Dave Blaney.
Truex started 11th in the 33-car Nextel Open field and quickly worked his way through the field, pulling to second place alongside Edwards on a restart on lap 20. As the green flag waved, Truex spun his tires and fell back as Edwards pulled away.
Edwards, however, couldn’t maintain the advantage as his Ford Fusion developed a bad push, allowing Sauter to move in to challenge for the lead.
Truex, running the high side to perfection, also closed in on Sauter and Edwards as the two jockeyed for the lead.
Coming through turn three with three laps to go, Sauter pulled to the inside of Edwards, looking for the lead, but it was Truex squeezing by on the high side who pulled past Edwards and into the top spot with Sauter pulling through on the low side to move into second.
“I knew when I went to make that pass on Carl (Edwards) that the car was going to stick,” Truex, Jr. said. “I knew f I didn’t get around him then I wouldn’t be able to later.”
Looking to capitalize on his momentum, Sauter kept the heat on Truex, putting the bumper of his no. 70 Yellow Freight Chevy just inside the rear quarter-panel of Truex, but Truex kept finding grip on the high line and inches ahead of Sauter coming out of the turns to hold him off for the victory.
“I thought I had him,” Sauter said of his pass attempt on Edwards. “Carl looked like he was getting real loose, but we ended up going three-wide. I am happy we are moving on. I never thought we’d advance after starting 20th.”
Kenny Wallace finished 18th in the Nextel Open but was voted in by the fans to take the 21st and final spot in the Nextel All Star Challenge field. Pete McCole reporting for AutoRacing1.com