Denny Hamlin led 276 of 500 laps, but once again has no trophy to show for it. His teammate, Martin Truex Jr., would lead only 20, but win his third grandfather clock and take his second trip to victory lane of the 2021 season. Hamlin was pleased with his car and his day overall, but ultimately felt the last run was too long and knew Truex was strong.
"I thought it was a matter of time. " Hamlin said. "With about 25 to go or so, he already got into my rear bumper, kind of beating the back end off. It was just a matter of time.
The only hope, we had an extra set of tires over everyone. Hell, we would have pitted, taken tires, restarted 20th. That wasn’t going to work either.
Tough to say. We weren’t stuck in a box where we could make good in a long run. The reason we led so many laps is we had a lot of short runs, great starts in the middle of the race, not much green flag racing. When we had green flag racing, again, we were fast a little time, not a lot of time." Hamlin would finish 3rd.
Truex Jr. has led 253 laps overall this season with 5 top 10s, 3 top 5s and 2 wins. He was near the front all day and was the betting favorite going into the race. He was able to stay patient and pick his spot before passing Hamlin.
"Yeah, it was interesting how it all played out there. I thought throughout the day we were a third- to a fifth-place car in there. At one point in the middle of the race we got off a little bit, probably a sixth- or seventh-place car. It was kind of a weird day." Truex said after the race.
"Proud of the guys for working hard on it. They did a great job. That last pit stop we were able to get us the lead. Couldn’t quite hold off the 11 on that restart. He was really fast firing off. Just tried to stay with him and take care of my car. Knew there was enough laps left that tire wear in the long run was going to come into play.
He started getting tight, our car was getting better and better. We were able to take advantage of it. Really happy. For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down. Always good when a plan comes together and it works out the way you hoped it would."
Now through 8 races, there have been 7 different winners with Truex becoming the first multi time winner this season. Last year, he only had one win and is looking to return back to his championship winning form with second year crew chief, James Small.
"I feel really good about our team, overall what we can do this year. Our cars are strong. Our team is strong. We’ve been together a long time. Obviously last year James was the new piece moving to crew chief, but, man, he’s done a great job. Last year, for whatever reason, seemed like we were missing the tiniest little things. Sometimes it wasn’t even things we were doing wrong. Sometimes you feel like things aren’t meant to be, honestly.
Feeling good about it. Got a great team. Pit crew really stepped up today. Got a great stop on the last one that got us the lead. We got all the tools necessary. Great sponsors, Bass Pro, Auto-Owners, Reser’s, TRD and Toyota, all they did for us. We have a great opportunity to win a lot of races. Hopefully we can take advantage of it this year more than we did last year."
Chase Elliott would finish second after what has been a very up and down year. After winning the 2020 championship, Elliott has only 3 top 5s through 8 races. After running 2nd in the Daytona 500, he's had his mix of luck before two straight top 10s including today's runner up finish.
"Every week I feel like it’s been one thing or another, a bad run or just whatever. Just nice to have just a smooth day, no damage. We didn’t break anything. Everything was just smooth. It was uneventful. That’s the days you have to have to compete for wins ultimately. Some of that is in your hands, some of it’s not.
Truly nice to have an uneventful day, so to speak, just get a solid finish. Got some solid stage points. It was definitely a step in the right direction for us."
After 8 races, Hamlin still leads the points by 76 with 0 wins on the season followed by Truex Jr., Logano, Larson, Blaney, Byron, Elliott, Harvick, Keselowski, and Bell. The cup series will continue the short track theme by heading to Richmond next week. Here are the full results from the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 from Martinsville.