Martin Truex Jr. blew past the leaders on a late restart and won the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, taking the first race of NASCAR’s Chase in a green-white-checker finish.
Truex started fourth on the restart, which was made necessary when Michael McDowell blew a tire with four laps remaining. Truex quickly drove past Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and leader Ryan Blaney to win his third race of the season.
Joey Logano finished second, with rookie Chase Elliott coming in third. Blaney, another rookie but who isn’t in the Chase, was fourth.
The victory guarantees Truex a spot in the second round of the 10-race Chase, which will begin Oct. 8 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Here’s how the rest of the Chase field fared: Logano, second; Elliott, third; Brad Keselowski, fifth; Denny Hamlin, sixth; Kyle Busch, eighth; Matt Kenseth, ninth; Jamie McMurray, 11th; Jimmie Johnson, 12th; Kurt Busch, 13th; Austin Dillon, 14th; Carl Edwards, 15th; Tony Stewart, 16th; Kyle Larson, 18th; Kevin Harvick, 20th; Chris Buescher, 28th.
Truex’s pit crew was up to the task when McDowell’s right-front tire blew on Lap 264. Trailing leader Elliott coming into the pits, Truex came out ahead of Elliott. That put him in the fourth spot (and on the second row), behind Blaney, Kahne and Edwards, all of whom were on older tires. Truex quickly showed his strength and won going away.
How the NASCAR Chase drivers fared:
1. Martin Truex Jr. (1 victory, 2,050 points): Race winner is thinking about the Chase’s second segment now. It’s the first time he’s led the points standings in his career.
2. Brad Keselowski (1 point behind): Finished fifth; stayed near the front most of the day and led two laps.
3. Kyle Busch (4 behind): Finished eighth, led first 18 laps after starting race on pole.
4. Denny Hamlin (5 behind): Finished sixth and was running third when final caution came out.
5. Joey Logano (7 behind): Finished second and was able to do so by beating Hamlin’s car off pit road during final caution.
6. Chase Elliott (11 behind): Finished third after leading 75 laps, but was undone by late caution.
7. Matt Kenseth (12 behind): Finished ninth, stayed out of trouble and keeps his chances of making second round in good shape.
8. Jimmie Johnson (13 behind): Finished 12th after leading a race-high 118 laps. Speeding penalty on pit road doomed his chances, then he failed post-race inspection.
9. Carl Edwards (18 behind): Finished 15th, and started third on final restart -- but on old tires.
10. Kurt Busch (19 behind): Finished 13th after starting 12th. He has an average finish of 12.1 this season.
11. Jamie McMurray (20 behind): Finished 11th and he’s hoping these good-not-great performances can keep him around for second round.
12. Tony Stewart (22 behind): Finished 16th, said his car was much better than it was during Friday and Saturday practice sessions, just not good enough.
13. Austin Dillon (23 behind): Finished 14th, will have to do better to avoid going out after first segment.
14. Kevin Harvick (23 behind): Finished 20th, had to start from the rear of the field because of unapproved adjustments in the prerace inspection station. Flew up through the field quickly, but got a lap down after a caution.
15. Kyle Larson (24 behind): Finished 18th after starting at rear of the field (he was to have started 10th) because of a prerace transmission change.
16. Chris Buescher (34 behind): Finished 28th, two laps down, and never had a competitive car.
▪ Blaney, who was first on the final restart, led eight laps in the race -- the first laps he’s led all season.
▪ Johnson was incredulous when he was penalized for speeding on pit road. “No, no!” he said on his radio. “There’s no (expletive) way!”
▪ The last time a non-Chase driver won a postseason race was Hamlin at Homstead-Miami Speedway in 2013. It hasn’t happened in the two-plus seasons under the current Chase format.
▪ Ty Dillon subbed in the race for Regan Smith, who remained in North Carolina to await the birth of is second child with wife Megan.
They said it
“ What can I say – this is how we want to start off.” – Truex.
“We've all watched this stuff long enough; we know these races don’t go green that long typically.” -- Elliott.
Three tweets from Sunday’s race:
New England 300
Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
When: 2 p.m., Sunday.
TV: NBC Sports Network.
Radio: Performance Racing Network.