The Quaker State 400… or perhaps it should have been called the Martin Truex Jr. 400 given the way it played out on Saturday night, was surprisingly uneventful despite the track’s recent changes. In 2016, the track was repaved and reconfigured by changing the banking and the width of all 4 of its turns. The track had to be repaved again later in 2016 after durability issues arose. As such, the surface presented the unknown for drivers. Yet, regardless of a slick racetrack, only 3 of the 9 cautions in the race were for actual wrecks.
Going into the race, Pole Sitter Kyle Busch had the opportunity to become the first driver to ever win an Xfinity Series race and Cup Series race on the same day. Unluckily for Busch, he lost the lead to Martin Truex Jr in Stage 1. The only caution in the first stage was the competition caution to check tire wear. After sailing past Busch, Truex won the first stage.
Stage 2 seemed to intensify the racing and competition…but it didn’t last long. Lap 89 saw Brad Keselowski get loose upon entering turn 3. He slid up the track and hit the left rear of Clint Bowyer. This turned Keselowski sideways and Jimmie Johnson had nowhere to go. Johnson and Keselowski exited the race early as their cars were unfixable and were retired to the respective garages. Bowyer, however, was able to recover and finish P13.
Only 4 laps later, a similar situation occurred in Turn 2 between Kasey Kahne and Trevor Bayne. Kahne’s night was over as well and he too headed to the garage. Bayne remained in the race after his team repaired most of the damages. Unfortunately, Bayne caused another caution when he spun all by himself a few laps later in Turn 4. Truex battled with Busch a few times through the second stage but alas, Truex came out on top again to capture his 13th stage win of the season.
The most intriguing and entertaining moments of the race happened within the last 5 laps of Stage 3 starting with Kurt Busch whose car began smoking on the back straightaway. The caution then pushed the race into overtime. Truex was 14 whole seconds ahead of second place (essentially, half the track) when the caution flag came out. Truex and team elected not to pit under caution while everyone behind headed for pit road. Surprisingly, Truex was able to hold onto the lead during the two-lap shootout, despite running on old tires. It ended under caution, however, as Matt Kenseth, teammate Daniel Suarez, and Austin Dillon wrecked coming to the white flag.
Subsequently, Martin Truex Jr captured his 3rd win of the season.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be at New Hampshire Speedway (Loudon) next week for Overton’s 301. Get your tickets HERE