Martin Truex Jr. snaps winless drought; returns to Cup Series Victory Lane at Dover

Martin Truex Jr.’s 54-race winless drought evaporated on a clear Monday afternoon following a seven-lap dash to the finish as he proceeded to win the rain-postponed Würth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway on Monday, May 1.

The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion from Mayetta, New Jersey, led two times for 68 of 400-scheduled laps, including the final 11, as he spent the majority of the event clashing with crew chief James Small for better adjustments and pit stops to move up to the front. After gaining ground on the leaders at the start of the final stage, Truex capitalized during a green flag pit stop sequence that started with 76 laps remaining to cycle ahead of Ross Chastain and inherit the lead with 68 laps remaining.

Then, while trying to fend off Chastain and navigate his way through lapped traffic, a late caution period with 14 laps remaining was called for Joey Logano who was wrecking. This enabled Small to roll the dice and opt for a two-tire pit strategy that kept Truex in the lead. When the field restarted with seven laps remaining, Truex fended off a side-by-side battle against Ryan Blaney before holding off Chastain, who was charging on four fresh tires, to claim his first elusive checkered flag of the 2023 Cup season at the Monster Mile on his home track, and claim his first points victory in over a year.

With on-track qualifying that was scheduled to occur on Saturday, April 29, being canceled due to rain, the starting lineup was determined through a metric formula per the NASCAR Rule Book. As a result, Kyle Busch, winner of last weekend’s Cup event at Talladega Superspeedway, started on the pole position. Joining him on the front row was Christopher Bell. Prior to the event, Austin Dillon dropped to the rear of the field in a backup car after wrecking his primary car during Saturday’s practice session.

Due to the inclement weather, the main event was postponed from Sunday, April 30, to Monday, May 1, with a noon ET start time. When the green flag waved and the race commenced on Monday, Kyle Busch muscled away from Bell on the outside lane as he assumed the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch. As the field behind fanned out and jostled for early positions, Busch proceeded to lead the first lap ahead of Bell as Brad Keselowski overtook Ryan Blaney for third. In addition, Chase Briscoe was in fifth ahead of William Byron as Chris Buescher pressured Byron for more.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Busch maintained the lead ahead of Bell, Keselowski, Blaney and Briscoe while Buescher, Byron, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott were in the top 10. Behind, Denny Hamlin was in 11th ahead of Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. while Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Josh Berry, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley occupied the top 20. With more on-track battles ensuing, Busch retained the lead at the Lap 10 mark.

When a scheduled competition caution flew on Lap 20, Busch was scored the leader by three-tenths of a second over Bell while Keselowski, Blaney, Byron, Buescher, Stenhouse, Hamlin, Reddick and Harvick were scored in the top 10. By then, Elliott was in 13th behind Suarez and Truex, Larson was in 15th behind Chastain and Briscoe had fallen back to 20th. Meanwhile, Berry, who was filling in driving the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the injured Alex Bowman, was in 17th.

During the competition caution, the entire field led by Busch pitted as all took four tires, except for Berry and Todd Gilliland as both opted for two fresh tires. Following the pit stops, Busch exited first followed by Keselowski, Byron, Buescher, Hamlin and Berry. During the pit stops, teammates Byron and Berry made contact on pit road, when Berry exited his pit stall and ran into the side of Byron’s No. 24 Raptor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Byron then made contact with the pit wall. In addition, Bell fell back to 14th after enduring a slow pit service while his crew was changing the right-front tire.

Following the pit stops, however, Busch was sent to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road. Busch’s penalty allowed Keselowski and Byron to move up to the front row for the continuation of the event.

When the race proceeded under green on Lap 27, Byron rocketed away from Keselowski with a strong start on the inside lane and with Hamlin pushing him as Byron assumed the lead. The caution, however, quickly returned when rookie Noah Gragson, who was running towards the rear, slapped the outside wall on the backstretch before spinning towards the bottom of the track and making light contact with the inside wall as he nursed his damaged No. 42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to pit road.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 33, Byron rocketed away with another strong start on the outside lane as he maintained the lead ahead of Hamlin and Keselowski, both of whom battled for second in front of Blaney. With the field fanning out for nearly a lap, the caution quickly returned during the following lap when Suarez, who was running towards the top 10, snapped loose and slapped the outside wall entering the frontstretch as he then spun his No. 99 Pitbull/Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 towards the inside wall. With the field slamming on the brakes to avoid Suarez’s incident, more issues ensued as Kyle Busch ran into the rear of Ty Dillon as both he and BJ McLeod also wrecked with Dillon sustaining more damage as he backed his Spire Motorsports entry into the inside wall. The incident knocked Dillon and Suarez out of contention as McLeod and Busch, whose early pit road speeding penalty sent him to the rear of the field, pitted for repairs.

During the following restart on Lap 41, Byron maintained the lead ahead of Hamlin as the field fanned out to three lanes entering the first two turns. Behind, Blaney overtook Keselowski for third while Ross Chastain used a three-wide move on the outside lane to move up to fifth. Shortly after, however, Truex battled his way into the top five as Keselowski fell back to sixth while Buescher, Berry, and Larson followed in pursuit.

Through the first 50 scheduled laps, Byron was leading by half a second over Hamlin followed by Blaney, Chastain and Truex while Keselowski, Buescher, Berry, Larson and Stenhouse were running in the top 10. Behind, Elliott was in 11th ahead of Bell, Harvick, Reddick and Cindric while Justin Haley, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano and Todd Gilliland were in the top 20. By then, Bubba Wallace was in 22nd ahead of rookie Ty Gibbs and Erik Jones, Kyle Busch was mired in 25th, Briscoe had fallen back to 27th, Aric Almirola was in 30th and Austin Dillon was in 32nd after starting at the rear of the field.

Ten laps later, Byron continued to lead by eight-tenths of a second over Hamlin as Blaney, Chastain and Truex remained in the top five. Byron proceeded to maintain his advantage by eight-tenths of a second over Hamlin and more than two seconds over third-place Blaney at the Lap 75 mark. By then, Larson cracked the top five in fifth while Truex fell back to seventh. In addition, Bell returned to the top 10 in 10th, Elliott was in 13th behind Berry and Reddick, Harvick was in 14th and Kyle Busch was in 17th behind McDowell.

Then on Lap 80, the caution flew when Chastain, who was running fourth and getting pinned behind the lapped competitors of Brennan Poole and Austin Dillon, ran into Poole and sent Poole’s No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang sideways in Turn 1. Poole then came back across the track and collected Larson, who was running fifth, as both wrecked against the outside wall, with Larson spinning below the track and sustaining significant front-end damage to his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The incident was one that left Larson voicing his displeasure to Chastain over the radio.

During the caution period, nearly the entire field pitted, except for Kyle Busch as he remained on the track and inherited the lead in his damaged No. 8 Lenovo Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Following the pit stops and amid mixed strategies, Chastain exited first after opting only for two tires followed by Reddick, who also opted for two tires, while Byron exited third and was the first competitor on four fresh tires. Blaney, Keselowski and Buescher followed suit from fourth to sixth.

At the start of the following restart on Lap 89, Busch and Chastain battled dead even entering Turn 1 as Chastain then slid up the track towards Busch. This caused Busch to brake to avoid wrecking as Byron seized an opportunity on the inside lane to battle and overtake Chastain for the lead. With Byron leading Chastain, Hamlin and Keselowski battled for third followed by Blaney while Busch fell back to sixth in front of Reddick. Meanwhile, Harvick was in 10th behind Buescher and Bell while Truex was in 11th in front of Corey LaJoie. In addition, Logano was battling Stenhouse and Ty Gibbs for 13th.

At the Lap 100 mark, Byron was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Chastain followed by Hamlin, Keselowski and Blaney while Reddick, Buescher, Bell, Harvick, Busch and Truex battled within the top 11. Not long after, Larson nursed his damaged No. 5 car to the garage for additional repairs.

Just past the Lap 110 mark, Byron maintained the lead by four-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Hamlin with Chastain falling back to third on two fresh tires. Keselowski and Blaney remained in the top five while Buescher, Bell, Harvick, Truex and Reddick were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Busch was scored outside the top 20 while names that included Logano, AJ Allmendinger, Berry, Erik Jones, Elliott and Ryan Preece were running within the top 20.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 120, Byron claimed his sixth stage victory of the 2023 Cup season after fending off a last-lap charge from Hamlin. Blaney settled in third while Keselowski, Chastain, Buescher, Bell, Harvick, Truex and Stenhouse. Meanwhile, Busch, who radioed a right rear tire issue to his car and was lapped by Byron a few laps prior to the conclusion of the stage, was overtaken and edged by teammate Austin Dillon at the stage’s conclusion for the free pass spot in 25th place.

Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Byron pitted. Following the pit stops, Byron retained the lead after exiting first followed by Keselowski, Blaney, Chastain, Bell and Harvick. During the pit stops, Hamlin exited ninth after enduring a slow pit stop after the jackman tripped over the pit hose. Teammate Truex also endured a slow stop after the jackman had issues jacking up the right side of Truex’s car during the pit service. In addition, Keselowski was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation for knocking a tire out of his pit box and towards the infield.

The second stage started on Lap 129 as Byron and Blaney occupied the front row. At the start, Byron rocketed away with the lead followed by Blaney and Chastain while Hamlin ignited his charge back to the front as he battled Harvick for fifth while Bell was in fourth. By then, Ty Gibbs cracked the top 10 in eighth ahead of Logano and Elliott.

Through Lap 150, Byron was leading by more than a second over Blaney followed by Chastain, Hamlin and Harvick while Bell, Buescher, Gibbs, Elliott and Berry were in the top 10. Behind, Erik Jones was in 11th ahead of Logano, LaJoie, Stenhouse and McDowell while Reddick, Truex, Wallace, Allmendinger and Preece occupied the top 20. By then, Keselowski had fallen out of the top 20 in 22nd while Kyle Busch was mired in 26th.

Twenty-five laps later, Byron stabilized his lead by six-tenths of a second over Blaney, who started to close in on Byron for the lead, while third-place Chastain trailed by eight-tenths of a second. Behind, fourth-place Hamlin was trailing by five seconds while fifth-place Harvick trailed by six seconds. By then, 21 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap while Logano, who restarted ninth during the previous restart, was lapped and mired in 22nd place.

Another 10 laps later, the battle for the lead began to slow brew between Byron and Chastain, with the latter, who overtook Blaney earlier, closing in on the former and was trailing within five and six-tenths of a second. Meanwhile, Blaney fell back to third and was trailing by more than two seconds followed by Hamlin and Harvick, Gibbs started to battle Buescher for sixth and Bell was clinging towards the edge of the top 10. Not long after, Bell and Logano, who was a lap down, pitted. Briscoe, who was also a lap down, pitted after making contact with the Turn 4 wall.

Just past the Lap 190 mark, names that included Elliott, Buescher, Gibbs, Reddick, Harvick, Erik Jones, Hamlin and Stenhouse pitted under green as Byron continued to fend off Chastain for the lead. Then on Lap 194, Byron surrendered the lead to Chastain as he pitted under green. Chastain would pit during the following lap along with Blaney, Cindric, Truex, Preece, Berry and others.

At the halfway mark on Lap 200 and with nearly the entire field having made a pit stop, Keselowski, who had yet to pit, was leading while Chastain, who was trailing by a long distance in second, managed to blend back on the track ahead of Byron and Blaney. Just then, Keselowski pitted his No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford Mustang under green as Chastain cycled into the lead. By then, Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch, both of whom were in third and fifth, had yet to pit while Byron and Blaney were in second and fourth.

Ten laps later, Chastain was leading by two-tenths of a second over Byron followed by Blaney while Harvick and Hamlin moved back up into the top five. Buescher was in sixth ahead of Austin Dillon and Elliott while Kyle Busch was in ninth ahead of Ty Gibbs. By then, Truex was back in 12th ahead of teammate Bell while Berry was running just outside the top 15.

Another 15 laps later, Chastain continued to lead by three-tenths of a second over Byron and more than two seconds over Blaney while Harvick and Hamlin remained in the top five. By then, Buescher, Gibbs, Elliott, Reddick and Truex were in the top 10 while Bubba Wallace moved up to 11th followed by Bell, Corey LaJoie, Erik Jones and Josh Berry. Meanwhile, Keselowski was mired in 16th, the final competitor on the lead lap.

Just past Lap 235, Chastain extended his advantage to more than a second over Byron and more than three seconds over Blaney as 15 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 250, Chastain claimed his fourth stage victory of the 2023 Cup season. Byron settled in second followed by Blaney, Truex and Hamlin while Gibbs, Buescher, Reddick, Elliott and Bell were scored in the top 10. By then, only 12 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap while Harvick, who was off the pace, had fallen back to 15th in his No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza/Realtree Ford Mustang.

Under the stage break, the lead lap competitors led by Chastain pitted. Following the pit stops, Byron reassumed the lead after exiting pit road first ahead of Chastain while Blaney, Truex, Gibbs, Buescher and Hamlin followed suit.

With 142 laps remaining, the final stage started as Byron and Chastain occupied the front row. At the start, Chastain received a strong push from Truex to challenge Byron for the lead, but Byron managed to use the outside lane to his advantage as he retained the lead while Truex overtook Blaney for third. As Byron continued to lead, Gibbs and Buescher were in fifth and sixth while Hamlin battled his driver Reddick for seventh.

With 125 laps remaining, Byron stretched his advantage to seven-tenths of a second over Chastain while third-place Truex trailed by a second. Blaney and Gibbs were in the top five while Buescher, Hamlin, Reddick, Bell, Keselowski, Elliott, Berry and Wallace were scored in the lead lap category within the top 13. Meanwhile, LaJoie and Harvick battled for 14th place and to emerge as the highest competitor scored a lap down while Erik Jones, Stenhouse, McDowell, Harrison Burton and Allmendinger were scored in the top 20. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch was mired in 22nd and Logano was down to 28th.

Then 11 laps later, Chastain, who had methodically narrowed his deficit from Byron while also trying to fend off Truex, overtook Byron, who was battling loose conditions, through Turns 3 and 4 as he returned as the leader. Truex then overtook Byron for the runner-up spot two laps later as he started to ignite his charge to the front.

Down to the final 100 laps of the event, Chastain was leading by six-tenths of a second over Truex. Behind, Blaney moved up to third along with Gibbs while Byron fell back to fifth. Meanwhile, Hamlin was in sixth ahead of Bell, Reddick, Keselowski and Buescher while Berry, Elliott and Wallace were scored on the lead lap.

Ten laps later, Chastain continued to lead by nine-tenths of a second over Truex. Chastain proceeded to stabilize his advantage to two-tenths of a second over Truex with 80 laps remaining. By then, Byron, who earlier reported an issue to his right-rear tire, was back in seventh as Blaney, Gibbs, Bell and Hamlin occupied the top six.

Then with 76 laps remaining, pit stops under the green flag slowly commenced as Keselowski pitted. Reddick would pit a few laps later along with Truex, Buescher, Ty Gibbs, Byron and Wallace, who shredded a tire, as Harrison Burton spun after locking his front tires while trying to enter pit road behind Truex. With Burton managing to continue to pit road despite briefly blocking the entrance, the race remained under green flag conditions. Chastain would then pit with nearly 70 laps remaining along with Hamlin and others while McDowell was penalized for speeding on pit road.

Back on the track and with the green flag pit stops continuing to ensue, Truex, who managed to cycle ahead of Chastain, assumed the lead in his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota TRD Camry over half a second over Chastain’s No. 1 Jockey Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with 68 laps remaining.

With 50 laps remaining, Truex was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Chastain while third-place Blaney trailed by more than five seconds. Behind, Ty Gibbs was in fourth ahead of teammates Hamlin and Bell, thus placing all four Joe Gibbs Racing competitors in the top six. Keselowski was up in seventh while Byron was back in eighth ahead of Buescher and Reddick.

Then with nearly 40 laps remaining, the battle for the lead reignited as Chastain narrowed the deficit to less than three-tenths of a second over the leader Truex, who was getting mired in lapped traffic. By then, Ty Gibbs had fallen back to sixth place after being reported that he would be seven laps shy on his current tank of fuel.

With 30 laps remaining, Truex, who was trying to lap Harvick, stabilized his advantage to four-tenths of a second over Chastain. Truex, however, would manage to lap Harvick a second time and navigate his way through lapped traffic smoothly as he extended his advantage to nearly a second over Chastain, who was blocked by Larson as Larson stalled Chastain’s progress to express his continuous displeasure from the Lap 81 incident between both, with 20 laps remaining.

A few laps later, however, Truex encountered more heavy traffic, which enabled Chastain to close the deficit to within six-tenths and half a second. As Chastain started to encounter the traffic, among which included Reddick and Gibbs, he was trailing by within four-tenths of a second as Truex continued to lead.

Then with 14 laps remaining, the caution flew when Logano’s long afternoon came to a crashing end after he lost a tire, spun and wrecked his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang against the outside wall in Turn 4. By then, Truex had retained the lead over Chastain as both along with Blaney, Hamlin, Bell, Keselowski, Byron and Buescher were the only competitors scored on the lead lap.

During the caution period, the remaining eight lead lap competitors led by Truex pitted. Following the pit stops, Truex retained the lead after exiting pit road first while only opting for two fresh right-side tires along with Blaney and Bell. Meanwhile, Chastain, who opted for four tires, exited fourth followed by Keselowski, Byron, Buescher and Hamlin.

Down to the final seven laps of the event, the race restarted under green as Truex and Blaney occupied the front row in front of Bell and Chastain. At the start, Truex and Blaney, both of whom were racing on two fresh tires, battled dead even for the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch while Chastain was trying to overtake Bell for third. Blaney then sent his No. 12 Wabash Ford Mustang hard into Turns 3 and 4 to assume the lead, but Truex fought back on the outside lane entering the frontstretch. Then after their side-by-side battle for more than a lap, Truex pulled away from Blaney with the lead through the backstretch with six laps remaining. Chastain then overtook Blaney for second entering the frontstretch as he tried to catch Truex despite both time and laps winding down.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Truex remained as the leader by nearly six-tenths of a second over Chastain. With Chastain unable to launch a final lap charge to get to Truex’s bumper on four fresh tires, Truex was able to cycle his way back to the frontstretch and claim his first checkered flag of the season and his first win in over a year.

With the victory, Truex, who won the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in February, notched his 32nd career victory in NASCAR’s premier series, his 13th driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, his sixth with crew chief James Small and his fourth at Dover (three of which, including today and also in 2007 and 2019, occurring on a Monday). The victory also snapped a 54-race winless drought for the former Cup Series champion, who last won at Richmond Raceway in September 2021, and placed him in a guaranteed spot to make the 2023 Cup Playoffs after missing it during the previous season. It was also a memorable weekend for the Truex family, with Martin’s younger brother, Ryan, notching his first Xfinity Series career victory at the Monster Mile on Saturday.

“Man, it feels incredible,” Truex, who became the eighth different winner of 2023, said on FS1. “I felt like we’ve been close a bunch of times. We gave some [wins] away, that’s for sure. I thought today, ‘Oh man. Late caution. What’s gonna happen here?’ Just a great call by James [Small] to take two [tires] and was able to get a pretty good restart and get Blaney there. He raced me hard, but clean. Just thanks to everybody that stuck with us. We knew we could do this. We’ve showed it. We’ve led laps, we’ve dominated races and it just would never all come together, and I kept saying that we gotta just keep doing what we’re doing and not overthink it. Tough day today with a few pit stops early and then, obviously, the [pit] guys got it going at the end. Really psyched and happy for everybody. Thanks to everyone at [Joe Gibbs Racing] as well. Awesome job.”

Chastain, who is seeking his first victory of the season and since winning at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2022, settled in second after leading 98 compared to Truex’s 68 laps led, but finishing behind Truex by half a second.

“[I] Knew whoever got into the lead was gonna have a good shot at [winning],” Chastain, who accepted the responsibility for the incident involving Brennan Poole and Larson, said. “Gosh, so close again for our Jockey Chevy. It’s surreal to continue to do this and race against my heroes. I guess I told [Truex] a few too many of my secrets last year after we went fishing.”

Blaney, who has not won a Cup event since Michigan International Speedway in August 2021, ended up third. Byron, who led a race-high 193 laps, came home in fourth while Hamlin finished fifth. Bell, Reddick, Keselowski, Buescher and Josh Berry finished in the top 10 followed by Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace, all of whom finished on the lead lap.

Notably, rookie Ty Gibbs ended up 13th, Kevin Harvick finished 19th in his final start at the Monster Mile, Kyle Busch settled in 21st, Logano retired in 31st and Larson finished in 32nd.

There were 19 lead changes for eight different leaders. The race featured seven cautions for 46 laps.

Following the 11th event of the 2023 Cup Series season, Ross Chastain leads the regular-season standings by three points over Christopher Bell, 38 over Kevin Harvick, 40 over Martin Truex Jr. and 44 over Ryan Blaney.

Results.

1. Martin Truex Jr., 68 laps led

2. Ross Chastain, 98 laps led, Stage 2 winner

3. Ryan Blaney

4. William Byron, 193 laps led, Stage 1 winner

5. Denny Hamlin

6. Christopher Bell

7. Tyler Reddick

8. Brad Keselowski

9. Chris Buescher

10. Josh Berry, three laps led

11. Chase Elliott

12. Bubba Wallace

13. Ty Gibbs, one lap down

14. Corey LaLoie, one lap down

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap down

16. Erik Jones, one lap down

17. Ryan Preece, one lap down

18. AJ Allmendinger, one lap down

19. Kevin Harvick, one lap down

20. Harrison Burton, two laps down

21. Kyle Busch, three laps down, 25 laps led

22. Michael McDowell, three laps down

23. Justin Haley, three laps down

24. Aric Almirola, three laps down

25. Todd Gilliland, four laps down

26. Austin Cindric, four laps down

27. Austin Dillon, five laps down

28. JJ Yeley, seven laps down

29. BJ McLeod, 19 laps down

30. Chase Briscoe, 22 laps down

31. Joey Logano – OUT, Accident

32. Kyle Larson, 41 laps down

33. Brennan Poole – OUT, Accident

34. Noah Gragson – OUT, DVP

35. Daniel Suarez – OUT, Accident

36. Ty Dillon – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ first of two scheduled visits this season to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The event is scheduled to occur next Sunday, May 7, at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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