LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. mastered another Monday matinee to win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first time in 30 career Cup tries at the same track where as a kid he watched from the grandstands while his father raced.
Thanks to rain postponements, Truex won his second Monday race of the season — he also won at Dover — and fourth of his career.
Truex dominated in the No. 19 Toyota en route to his third win of the season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver secured one of the few wins he desperately wanted in a career that could be winding down. The 43-year-old Truex, the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, said over the weekend he was close to a decision on his future: either retire or return for another season at JGR.
At the Magic Mile, it was simply time for an overdue celebration.
“This one’s been eluding me for a long, long time,” Truex said.
Truex led with 15 laps left when JGR teammate Christopher Bell, last year’s New Hampshire winner, smacked the wall to bring out the eighth caution.
“We should have a company policy that says when one of your teammates is leading, don’t crash by yourself,” Truex said over the radio.
It really didn’t matter for Truex. He pulled away off the restart with nine laps left and could taste victory — and soon enough, the 20-pound lobster that traditionally goes to the winner.
It’s a perfect reward for Truex, who also grew up helping his dad on his family’s clam boat.
This win was special. Truex tagged along as a kid to New Hampshire when his dad raced here in the 1990s and got his first taste of the sights, smells and sounds of a NASCAR garage.
One memory stood out among the others: Watching Dale Earnhardt tinker with his carburetor under the hood of his car.
“I just kind of stood there in awe and watched,” Truex said over the weekend.
And as soon as Truex could race at New Hampshire, he won. Truex had just turned 20 years old when he won a regional stock car series race at the track. Pretty cool. Even better? His father finished fifth in the same race.
“This place is a big reason why I got to where I am,” the younger Truex said.
Truex found early success in Loudon once he transitioned to Cup in 2006, rattling off a third-place finish and a fifth in 2007 when the series still raced here twice a season and a fourth and seventh in 2008. He had six straight top 10s from 2016 to 2020 and led 172 laps from the pole last season before he faded to fourth. Truex said his JGR team “panicked” with a late call for two tires that backfired and cost them the checkered flag.
“It’s one that I wanted really bad for a long time,” Truex said. “Maybe too much, I don’t know.”
Much like last year, Truex won the first two stages of the 301-lap race.
Joey Logano finished second. Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Kyle Busch was forced to drive his backup car after the No. 8 Chevrolet suffered damage in both practice and qualifying. Busch hit the wall early in the race and was forced out after 71 laps. The two-time Cup champion finished last. Busch had one win and finished in the top 10 in each of his last seven races.
“I’ve been lacking right-rear grip the whole time we’ve been here,” he said. “Just couldn’t get the right-rear feel in the race track.”