Martin Truex Jr. stays hot at Martinsville, gets second Cup Series win of 2021

April 12 (UPI) — Short track specialist Martin Truex Jr. won a rain-delayed Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 for his third win in his last four starts at Martinsville Speedway and became the first repeat winner of the Cup Series season.

Truex finished 1.971 seconds ahead of Chase Elliott on Sunday at the .526-mile track in Martinsville, Va. He now has five victories in his last 11 starts at short tracks.

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“It was very different to how we won here before,” Truex told reporters. “Usually we have a pretty dominant car and lead a lot of laps. This week we had to battle.

“I think the track starting off this afternoon was quite a lot different to what we’ve experienced here in the last few races where we’ve been really strong.”

Sunday’s race started Saturday, but was postponed due to rain. The race resumed at 4 p.m. EDT Sunday and featured 18 lead changes, 15 caution flags and a 12-car pileup.

Truex’s win — paired with a March 14 victory at Phoenix — snapped a streak of seven consecutive weeks with different winners to start the Cup Series season.

Cup Series standings leader Denny Hamlin finished in third place for his seventh Top 5 finish this season. William Byron and Kyle Larson also finished in the Top 5 at Martinsville. Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch rounded out the Top 10 finishers.

“We struggled, chipped away at it. … Denny had been exceptional on the short run all day. No matter what lane we picked, it was going to be hard to hold him off,” Truex said.

Logano and Hamlin, who started in the front row, wrestled for the lead for the first 74 laps. Ryan Blaney then jumped into the fold and won the first stage of the race. He then battled Logano and Hamlin for the lead, but also claimed the second stage.

Bubba Wallace held the lead from laps 292 through 314, but William Byron took over on lap 315. Hamlin, Logano, Bell and Blaney also led the pack until Truex, Hamlin and Elliott fought for the victory down the stretch. Truex passed the Cup Series leader on lap 485 and held onto the lead for the final 15 laps to claim the victory. Elliott also passed Hamlin with about five laps remaining to claim second place.

“I had a really good car on the short run all day,” Hamlin told reporters. “I got great restarts and was fast for 25, 30 laps. Then it seemed like guys would start catching us.

“Unfortunately [there were] just too many laps at the end [and] we couldn’t hold those guys off.”

Chris Buescher and Busch sparked the major crash on lap 387. The dustup impacted more than a dozen drivers and stopped the race for nearly 22 minutes.

Hamlin led for a race-high 276 laps. Blaney, who led for 157 laps, finished 11th. Bubba Wallace led for 23 laps. Truex led for 20 laps.

Truex moved up to second place in the Cup Series standings, 76 points behind Hamlin. Logano, Larson and Blaney also are in the Top 5 of the standings.

The Cup Series season continues with the Geico 500 at 2 p.m. EDT Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala.

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