Martin Truex Jr. winning at Martinsville Speedway. Fitting.
The NASCAR Cup Series‘ Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to rain, but not even a weather delay could stop Truex from scoring his second win of the year after beating Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Denny Hamlin in a late battle.
Stages #1 and 2
After waiting for over eighteen hours and a brief caution, the race restarted on lap 46 with Hamlin and Ryan Blaney on the front row (Joey Logano was second when the race was postponed but elected to restart behind Hamlin on the inside line). On lap 50, Kurt Busch spun after being turned by Erik Jones, resulting in a caution.
Hamlin continued to lead for the lap 57 restart. Ten laps later, Daniel Suárez cracked the top twenty after starting at the back following a ballast penalty that resulted in his crew chief’s ejection. However, his momentum faded after having to pit for a loose right-front wheel.
Blaney took the lead on lap 75 and held the spot to the end of the stage. Hamlin, Truex, the Hendrick Motorsports quartet of Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, William Byron, and Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Logano, and Christopher Bell followed.
The second stage opened on lap 140 as Blaney and Hamlin briefly sparred before the latter won the lead. Hamlin led until Blaney regained the position on lap 175. Meanwhile, B.J. McLeod and Ryan Preece pitted to address mechanical issues.
On lap 241, Cody Ware‘s right-rear tyre went down and caused him to spin into the turn three wall to produce a yellow. Ware had also been involved in the race’s first caution on Saturday when he tangled with Rick Ware Racing team-mate James Davison. Although Logano avoided being lapped by his Team Penske ally Blaney with the yellow, he received a speeding penalty on his stop.
The next restart came with 13 laps to go. Hamlin stuck with Blaney on the inside during the first lap before Blaney cleared him. Another attempt came two laps later before their battle was interrupted by a caution from turn two contact between Ryan Newman and Aric Almirola that caused the former to spin down into Matt DiBenedetto.
A two-lap sprint to the green-checkered flag began with Blaney and the inside getting a strong restart that enabled him to clear Hamlin. Hamlin was able to hold off Joe Gibbs Racing partner Truex and caught up to Blaney in the final corners, but Blaney beat him to the line. Truex, Elliott, Bowman, Keselowski, Byron, Tyler Reddick, and Kyle and Kurt Busch rounded out the top ten.
Much of the field including Blaney pitted between stages while Hamlin and ten others stayed out.
The final stage commenced on lap 270 with Hamlin and Keselowski comprising the top spots. Hamlin took off as Keselowski began facing opposition from Byron, Reddick, and Kurt Busch.
Justin Haley cut his left-rear tyre and hit the wall on lap 277. The green flag waved on lap 283 and ran for six laps until Ware spun again. Hamlin was the first off pit road and Bubba Wallace inherited the lead when he and five others decided against pitting. Austin Dillon was penalised after pitting outside of his box.
Wallace and Ryan Newman paced the grid to the lap 297 restart. The former led a career-high 23 laps before being passed by Byron on lap 315; Wallace’s previous best was ten at the 2020 fall Talladega race.
The next 30 laps saw three cautions for spins: Kyle Busch spun on lap 321, followed by Anthony Alfredo on lap 330, Keselowski on 340, and Newman on 349. While Busch spun on his own, the others’ incidents came after contact: Alfredo was hit by Almirola, Keselowski by Suárez, and Newman by Wallace. The Newman wreck’s ensuing stack-up also resulted in damage to Almirola and Suárez.
Another restart came on lap 355 with Hamlin and Bowman in the top two, though the latter’s race unravelled when he pitted after twelve laps due to a vibration from a loose right-front wheel. On lap 370, Jones spun in turn two after being hit by Keselowski, who in turn was bumped by Ross Chastain from behind, for a yellow flag. Corey LaJoie suffered serious damage to his nose and radiator when he was hit by Reddick while exiting his pit stall, ending his day.
Bell and Chastain held the front row for the restart on lap 377. As Bell pulled ahead, Chastain was shuffled back by Hamlin and Suárez. As the field bunched up behind them, Blaney lunged into third. At the front, Hamlin caught his JGR team-mate and made the pass for the lead on lap 385.
On 387, the largest wreck of the day occurred when Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher collided, sending the former into a spin. The sideways Buescher caused a backstretech pile-up that collected Alfredo, Bowman, Davison, DiBenedetto, Haley, Jones, Keselowski, Newman, Suárez, Ware, Kurt Busch, Cole Custer, Michael McDowell, and Ryan Preece; Suárez’s car also caught fire as a result, and he subsequently threw a water bottle at Byron after exiting. The red flag was called for cleanup, lasting over 20 minutes.
The race resumed on lap 396 with Hamlin and Blaney still in front. As Blaney tailed Hamlin with Truex in tow, Elliott and Larson battled for fourth.
With 48 laps remaining, Chase Briscoe hit the wall in turn three after spinning from a flat right-rear tyre. Truex beat Hamlin out of the pits while Blaney lost three positions after his car ran over the front tyre changer’s air hose, which resulted in a penalty for removing equipment as it got caught under the car while he exited.
The next green flag waved on lap 458, with Blaney restarting nineteenth as the last car on the lead lap. As Truex tried to hold off Larson, Hamlin capitalised to take the lead. As the race crossed the 25-to-go mark, Blaney was battling with Newman and Kyle Busch in his effort to breach the top ten.
Using the lapped car of Davison as a pick, Truex tried to make his move on lap 484. The two ran side-by-side for the next lap before Truex cleared Hamlin in turn four; behind them, Elliott caught up to Hamlin.
With ten laps left, Truex built his lead to a second as Hamlin fought with Elliott. With a nearly two-second advantage, Truex drove off to become the first repeat winner in 2021 and his third win at Martinsville in his last four starts at the short track.
“We never could quite get (the car) the way we wanted it but it started getting dark and she came to life,” Truex told FS1. “[…] I can’t believe we won here again. Not even the dominant car today for sure, but that was a lot of fun there at the end racing with Denny. We raced clean, and we were able to come out on top.”
Elliott passed Hamlin for second. Elsewhere in the field, Davison and RWR team-mate Josh Bilicki scored career-best finishes of twenty-second and twenty-third, respectively. Ware, who traded barbs with Davison over the radio during the day due to their run-ins, was able to join his brethren and fellow RWR driver J.J. Yeley in the top thirty by finishing twenty-eighth; Yeley ended his day in twenty-fifth. Quin Houff finished twenty-fourth for his best run of the year.
|1||7||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||500||Running|
|2||5||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||500||Running|
|3||2||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||500||Running|
|4||3||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||500||Running|
|5||19||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||500||Running|
|6||1||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||500||Running|
|7||23||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||500||Running|
|8||13||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||500||Running|
|9||9||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||500||Running|
|10||12||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||500||Running|
|11||4||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||500||Running|
|12||22||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||500||Running|
|13||15||17||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||500||Running|
|14||18||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||500||Running|
|15||6||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||500||Running|
|16||25||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||500||Running|
|17||27||42||Ross Chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||500||Running|
|18||26||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||500||Running|
|19||8||6||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||499||Running|
|20||31||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||499||Running|
|21||21||1||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||498||Running|
|22||37||15||James Davison||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||494||Running|
|23||33||52||Josh Bilicki||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||493||Running|
|24||29||00||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||493||Running|
|25||28||53||J.J. Yeley*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||492||Running|
|26||35||38||Anthony Alfredo #||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||492||Running|
|27||24||14||Chase Briscoe #||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||491||Running|
|28||32||51||Cody Ware*||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||490||Running|
|29||36||78||B.J. McLeod*||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||478||Running|
|30||16||43||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||403||Rear Gear|
|31||14||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||387||Accident|
|32||11||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||386||Accident|
|33||10||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||385||Accident|
|34||20||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||384||Accident|
|35||30||77||Justin Haley*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||383||Accident|
|36||17||37||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||382||Accident|
|37||34||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||374||Accident|
* – Ineligible for Cup points