Martin Truex Jr became NASCAR’s first two-time winner of the 2021 season after winning his third Cup Series race at Martinsville.
The No19 Joe Gibbs Racing driver put a move on team-mate Denny Hamlin in the final stage to secure the victory, winning from reigning series champion Chase Elliott with Hamlin finishing third.
The race was originally meant to be completed on Saturday night but was hit by a rain delay. The action resumed on Sunday afternoon with over half of the first stage still to run.
With just 42 laps on the board and with 458 left to go, Ryan Blaney battled it out with Hamlin for the majority of the Sunday race but neither was able to convert their speed into the win.
Blaney’s No12 car was better in the longer stretches of green flag running versus Hamlin’s and the No12 swept both stages, narrowly edging Hamlin to the line at the end of the second.
The Penske driver’s earlier dominance was ultimately a false dawn though as he was sent to the back of the field following a round of pit stops late on for dragging a wheel gun outside of his pit box later in the final stage.
A mass pile-up exiting Turn Two with 115 laps to go brought out the red flags after the track was completely blockaded out of the second corner.
Contact between Chris Buscher and Kyle Busch entering Turn One sent the No17 up the race track and the pair came together trying to battle for the racing line out of the following corner.
It turned both sideways and led to a 15-car pile-up, bringing the race to a standstill once more.
After racing resumed, Hamlin continued to dominate until the very latter stages. With 15 laps to go, Truex was able to capitalise on an earlier caution and made the crucial pass. After attempting to shift his team-mate out of the grove and bump him up the track, the No19 finally made a pass stick out of turn two, claiming the inside line from Hamlin.
From that point on, Truex was able to drive away from the competition, clearing his closest challenger in Elliott by 2sec by the chequered flag. The win was the 29th of his career.
“It was pretty incredible at the end there. We never could quite get it where we wanted it but it started getting dark and she came to life,” Truex said after stepping out of the car.
Elliott managed to hold off Hamlin for second while the No11 finished in third, making it seven top-five finishes in the eight races so far in 2021. Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.