Not much could be lost for Martin Truex Jr. entering Dover. The New Jersey driver already won a race in this Chase round two weeks ago at Chicagoland, and so he could have finished 1st or 31st; it would have no bearing on his points situation in the Round of 12.
Truex elected to go for the former.
Truex dominated the 47th Annual Citizen Soldier 400, leading 187 laps, on his way to his second career win at the Dover International Speedway on Sunday.
Truex started second, passed pole sitter Brad Keselowski on lap five and dueled with Kyle Busch for much of the first 124 laps. Truex took the lead on lap 125 and stayed there before being passed by Jimmie Johnson on lap 189. Johnson stayed out front before having to serve a pass-through penalty for having one crew member over the wall too soon on a green flag pit stop. Outside of giving up the lead a handful of times due to green flag pit stop cycles, Truex was unchallenged and led the rest of the way.
It was Truex’s seventh career win and fourth of the season. Toyota has now won 14 races this season. Truex has led 1594 laps this season, just over 1000 more laps led than his career high before this season (581 in 2007). One of the most remarkable statistics from this race weekend is that Truex only had 24 laps of on-track practice before Sunday’s race, the second least amount of any other driver in the field.
“What an awesome weekend for us, I love this place,” Truex said in the media center following the race. “I’ve had a lot of heartbreaks since my first win here back in ’07. I’ve had a lot of heartbreaks. I’ve led a lot of laps. I’ve been in position to win multiple times, and it never seemed to work out for multiple reasons.
“Today I’m just thankful to have a great team, to have been able to lead lap 400 and get back to victory lane at a track that’s so special to me.”
The first half of the race was notable for Chip Ganassi Racing drivers finding themselves at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Jamie McMurray, in a season with record low amounts of engine failures, had an engine failure on lap 194. It was only the second time this entire season an engine out of the Hendrick shop failed. McMurray finished last and missed out on the next Chase round. Kyle Larson started the day off wrong by losing power in his battery during the first caution, then made it even worse by blowing a tire and hitting the wall on lap 183. Although Larson would recover to salvage a 25th showing on the day, neither CGR car ended up making the Chase.
The second half of the race became an endurance run. What would become the last restart of the day was on lap 198, making the 202 laps afterward a test of driver and crew to avoid mistakes. Only six cars finished on the lead lap, the least amount all season and the lowest amount in years. Johnson served a pass-through penalty but still recovered to seventh, the first car one lap down.
Kyle Busch came in second, seven and a half seconds behind Truex.
Chase Elliott followed up his third in the spring race at Dover this season with another third in this race. It was a strong race for Elliott, who drove his way into the Round of 12 after running in the top 10 for the vast majority of the race.
Brad Keselowski led seven laps after starting on the pole but just didn’t show the pure long run speed the No. 78 and No. 48 cars did. Keselowski still rode home fourth. Matt Kenseth had a somewhat quiet day, finishing fifth after running top five almost the entire race.
Joey Logano unlapped himself late due to short pitting and finished the race in sixth. Austin Dillon had a solid day and finished eighth, good enough to pass Larson for the final Chase position in the points. Denny Hamlin finished ninth and Jeff Gordon, in what will probably be his final start at Dover, finished 10th.
Tony Stewart couldn’t gain ground on Austin Dillon or pass Larson in points with his 13th, ending his hopes for a fourth championship. Chris Buescher finished 23rd after coming in essentially needing a victory, and did not advance in the Chase by a wide margin.
Ryan Blaney blew a right front tire on lap 106 in turn two and stalled in turn three trying to get down to the apron. Blaney finished 38th. Kevin Harvick had a terrible day; he broke a track bar mount to cause the first caution of the day on lap 35 and spent the next 43 laps in the garage. By virtue of his win last week at New Hampshire, however, his 37th at Dover had no impact on his Chase hopes this season.
All cars cleared post-race inspection.
Unofficial Points Report: