Martin Truex, Jr. Scores First-Career Darlington Victory

Martin Truex, Jr.
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Martin Truex, Jr. finally shook off the bad luck that had dogged him all summer long and broke through for one of the biggest victories of his career – winning Sunday night's Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway for his first-career victory at the "Track Too Tough To Tame."

Truex, Jr. won the battle off pit road following a round of pit stops on lap 331 to get himself near the front, took the lead for the first time six laps later and then held on for the last 30 laps – holding off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick in the final laps for his second win of the season.

Kyle Larson finished third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

Truex, Jr. had never finished better than fifth in 10-career starts at Darlington, but came through to score Furniture Row Racing their second Southern 500 victory following the team's win in 2011.

"This is just – this is unbelievable," said Truex, Jr. "Honestly this has always been one of my favorite tracks. I've wanted to win here so bad, and I've led a bunch of races here in Cup car and felt like I was in position or had chances to win this race before, or just to win at this track in general, and I've had a few heartbreakers here. To finally get it done was sweet.

"It just was frustrating to lead laps here throughout my career and even in years when we didn't run that well at teams I was on, we seemed to run well here and felt like we let a few slip away. It was worth the wait for sure."

Truex's win was his second marquee victory of the year after winning the Coca-Cola 600 back in May for his first Charlotte victory.

Since then, Truex and his team had been plagued by back luck, including a crash two weeks ago at Bristol and a pit-road miscue while leading last weekend at Michigan.

Martin Truex, Jr. kisses the finish line after winning the Southern 500
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"We've had a terrible string of back luck," said Truex, Jr. "I knew when the bad luck would stop coming we'd start racking them off and tonight we weren't the best car for once and we actually won, so that was really cool and just couldn't be more excited to win at Darlington, the Southern 500. I've been wanting to win this thing a long time."

Truex, Jr. had battled his way to the front of the field after qualifying eighth, moving up to take second place behind Larson following a restart with 83 laps to go.

Truex, Jr. worked on Larson for the lead but could never close the gap as Larson checked out on the rest of the field.

A caution flag on lap 319 brought the field to pit road and Truex, Jr. beat everyone off pit road, but still found himself restarting third after Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski stayed out.

On the restart, Truex, Jr., quickly overhauled Keselowski to take second place and started to track down Newman, who had moved out to a two-car length lead.

With 28 laps to go, Truex, Jr. ducked under Newman on the backstretch and had him cleared going into turn three to take the lead for the first time. Harvick would also make his way around Newman and set his sights on Truex, Jr.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] Although Truex, Jr. was able to keep his distance on Harvick, the tenth and final caution flag with 18 laps to go ended Truex, Jr.'s run – erasing a three-second lead over Harvick.

The caution flag brought the leaders to pit road and again Truex, Jr. won the battle off pit road over Harvick and Larson, bringing the field to the flag for a restart with 12 laps to go.

Back under green, Truex, Jr. held off Harvick going into turn one and began to pull away as Harvick fell into the clutches of Larson for the second spot. Harvick clawed his way back to regain the spot and tried to reel in Truex, Jr. who had pulled out to a five-car length lead.

In the final laps, Harvick looked to be making up ground, but started to fade as they came down to three to go, eventually falling five-car lengths behind at the finish line.

Harvick's runner-up spot was a bitter pill to swallow for the 2014 Southern 500 winner, who led a race-high 214 laps but ended the night losing a jaw-dropping 17 spots on pit road during the course of the event, including an airgun problem during a stop on lap 280 that cost him the lead.

Pit road problems has roiled the No. 4 team all season, and after Sunday night's race, Harvick took his pit crew to task over the myriad of problems during the race.

"We have championship cars and we're just mediocre on pit road," said Harvick. "It's been that way for a few years, and they've moved things around, but it just seems like it's just week after week.

"I'm over being a cheerleader. Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road, and cheerleading hasn't really been working. You've got to get after it on pit road and do your job."

Harvick then walked out of the media center without taking any more questions.

Tony Stewart finished 35th in his final Southern 500 start
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Sunday's race had continued a tradition established last year of throwback paint schemes, crew uniforms and drivers suits, including two throwback paint schemes honoring Tony Stewart – making his last Southern 500 start before he hangs up his helmet at the end of the season.

Stewart was the sentimental favorite to win the race – one of only two active Sprint Cup tracks he's never won at – but Stewart's hopes went up in smoke after blowing an engine with 48 laps to go.

Stewart made an impression in his final Darlington start, after making what appeared to be an intentional move to wreck Brian Scott on lap 205. That earned him yet another post-race visit to the NASCAR hauler.

"I'm kinda interested in what NASCAR has called me (to the hauler) for," Stewart said.

Race Results

Pos. # Driver Make Start Laps Led Status Points
1 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota 8 367 28 Running 44
2 4 Kevin Harvick Chevy 1 367 214 Running 41
3 42 Kyle Larson Chevy 16 367 45 Running 39
4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 7 367 13 Running 38
5 22 Joey Logano Ford 5 367 0 Running 36
6 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 10 367 10 Running 36
7 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy 18 367 0 Running 34
8 31 Ryan Newman Chevy 14 367 9 Running 34
9 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 2 367 47 Running 33
10 24 Chase Elliott Chevy 11 367 0 Running 31
11 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 6 367 1 Running 31
12 3 Austin Dillon Chevy 12 367 0 Running 29
13 21 Ryan Blaney Ford 20 367 0 Running 28
14 88 Jeff Gordon Chevy 15 367 0 Running 27
15 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy 13 367 0 Running 26
16 27 Paul Menard Chevy 24 367 0 Running 25
17 34 Chris Buescher Ford 31 367 0 Running 24
18 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 22 367 0 Running 23
19 19 Carl Edwards Toyota 3 366 0 Running 22
20 7 Regan Smith Chevy 33 366 0 Running 21
21 23 David Ragan Toyota 32 366 0 Running 20
22 15 Clint Bowyer Chevy 27 365 0 Running 19
23 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevy 21 365 0 Running 18
24 10 Danica Patrick Chevy 25 365 0 Running 17
25 13 Casey Mears Chevy 28 365 0 Running 16
26 83 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota 35 364 0 Running 15
27 95 Michael McDowell Chevy 30 364 0 Running 14
28 46 Michael Annett Chevy 37 362 0 Running 13
29 30 Josh Wise Chevy 40 361 0 Running 12
30 38 Landon Cassill Ford 29 361 0 Running 11
31 55 Reed Sorenson Chevy 39 358 0 Running 10
32 43 Aric Almirola Ford 26 346 0 Accident 9
33 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 9 328 0 Running 8
34 41 Kurt Busch Chevy 4 326 0 Accident 7
35 14 Tony Stewart Chevy 17 317 0 Engine 6
36 16 Greg Biffle Ford 23 295 0 Accident 5
37 98 Cole Whitt Chevy 36 250 0 Electrical 4
38 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt Ford 38 247 0 Accident 3
39 44 Brian Scott Ford 34 199 0 Accident 2
40 6 Trevor Bayne Ford 19 161 0 Engine 1


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