Truex surges to win at Martinsville

Steve Kaminski

While Martin Truex Jr. has emerged as an elite NASCAR Cup Series driver over the past five years, he never had much success on short tracks.

Truex has never won at Bristol, and he was winless in his first 27 starts at Martinsville.

But Truex has flipped the script.

Truex captured Wednesday night’s Blu-Emu 500 at the famed half-mile, driving away from Ryan Blaney to grab his first win of the season. It also was Truex’s second-straight victory at Martinsville, having won the fall race there last year.

The race was the first night Cup race at Martinsville, which has been hosting the series every year since 1949. It also was Truex’s first win with new crew chief James Small, who replaced the retired Cole Pearn this season.

Here’s four other takeaways from Wednesday’s race.

How bad was Kevin Harvick Wednesday? Harvick, who won Sunday’s race at Atlanta, placed 15th, which doesn’t seem all that bad. But it was by Harvick’s standards. Not only was it his lowest finish of the season, he finished one lap down. It was the first time since the Bristol night race last August that Harvick didn’t finish on the lead lap.

Matt Kenseth replaced Kyle Larson when NASCAR returned from its coronavirus lockdown, and he finished 10th at Darlington in his first race back. But Kenseth, who hadn’t raced in Cup since 2018, has struggled since. In the six races since, Kenseth has fared no better than 15th Sunday at Atlanta. He placed 23rd Wednesday.

Bubba Wallace got plenty of attention this week when he announced that he was going to race a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his No. 43 Richard Motorsports Chevrolet Wednesday. Wallace finished 11th and was competitive throughout most of the race and just missed out on his third top 10 of the season. He finished sixth in Stage Two.

Austin Dillon had A.J. Allmendinger on standby Wednesday in case his wife, Whitney Dillon, went into labor. Dillon did not finish the race, but it wasn’t because of family. Dillon suffered from heat exhaustion after a crush panel was knocked out of his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. He had to be helped out of his car and was taken to the infield care center, where he was treated and released.