This weekend’s Monster Energy Cup Series race was held at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky. Clean air played a big part in Saturday night’s event, as Martin Truex Jr. claimed his third win of the season.
Stages 1 and 2 consisted of 80 laps, and the final stage consisted of 107 laps, making for a 267-lap race.
At the start, Kyle Busch got a great jump to retain the lead ahead of Truex Jr. Eight laps in, Ty Dillon’s car started smoking due to tyre rub, but no caution would be thrown and it would not affect the race.
The first caution, which would be the competition caution, was displayed on Lap 30, and both Busch and Truex Jr. pitted. They would hang onto their first and second positions off pit road after a two tyre pit stop, followed by Jamie McMurray in third.
The race resumed on Lap 36 and Busch once again got a good restart and hung onto the lead for 33 more laps until Truex Jr. got past on Lap 69, handing him the stage win, followed by Busch and Kyle Larson.
It’s important to note that Larson was forced to start at the back of the grid in 40th position when he missed qualifying after failing tech, which shows just how fast his car was.
The usual stage-ending pit stops would occur, and Truex Jr. would win the race off pit road followed by Busch and Kevin Harvick. Larson and Denny Hamlin were also penalised on this stop for speeding on pit road.
Stage 2 started on Lap 88 and we saw an incredible battle for the lead between Kyle Busch and Truex Jr, but Busch would prevail to nab the lead. No sooner did Busch claim the lead would a caution come out for Brad Keselowski, who got loose, taking out Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer in the process. This wreck would end Keselowski and Johnson’s night.
The race resumed on Lap 92 and Busch once again held onto the lead with Truex Jr. trailing closely behind. Two laps later, another caution flag was displayed when Trevor Bayne and Kasey Kahne made contact, ending Kahne’s night early once again.
Bayne’s crew was able to fix his car well enough to run a few more laps until he lost grip and spun out on Lap 113, ending his night as well.
After a restart on Lap 117, Busch went to the lead again until Truex Jr reclaimed it on Lap 134. The sixth caution flag of the night came out on Lap 137 for the #23 of Joey Gase when he hit the wall. The leaders did not pit during this stop, but one notable name, Ryan Blaney, did, and received a pit road speeding penalty.
The green flag flew again on Lap 142 and it was Truex Jr. to the lead. He would hang on to win yet another stage followed by Busch and Matt Kenseth. On this round of pit stops, Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Daniel Suarez would be the first three off pit road after two tyre pit stops. Joey Logano and Blaney stayed out during this caution and first and second position would be handed over to them.
The race resumed on Lap 167, and Truex Jr. would reclaim the lead from Logano on Lap 171. 12 laps later, Busch reported that his car wouldn’t turn at all, but it didn’t seem to affect him much, as he settled into the eighth position.
Whilst cycling through a round of green flag pit stops Dale Earnhardt Jr. would take the lead with 39 to go, but Truex Jr. would steal that lead from him a lap later.
Another caution flag came out not much later for Kurt Busch, when his engine started smoking. Truex Jr. would stay out on this round of pit stops, and things would start to get dicey as the race went into NASCAR Overtime, making for a two-lap shootout to the finish.
Truex Jr. would once again retain the lead as we saw a three-car pileup in the final lap that claimed Austin Dillon, Suarez, and Kenseth. The race finished under yellow and Martin Truex Jr. was the winner of the Quaker State 400. This was his third race win of the season for the championship favourite.
Next weekend, the Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Kenseth and Kyle Busch have always been strong contenders here, so keep an eye on them next week, especially since Joe Gibbs Racing is winless so far this season.