Martin Truex Jr. overcame an early-race collision with the wall to take the lead on the last restart with 25 laps to go, earning his first victory at Phoenix Raceway in 2021 and his first in 31 career appearances.
Truex’s No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won the Instacart 500 by 1.698 seconds over Joey Logano’s No. 22 Penske Racing Ford. Truex, the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, took the lead from the outside on a bold restart move, pulling away in the closing laps of a spirited race that saw 22 lead changes.
Truex, 40, of New Jersey, joins Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell, William Byron, and Kyle Larson as the fifth different winner in as many NASCAR Cup Series races this season.
“Just an awesome job by everybody, [crew chief] James [Small], all the pit crew guys fixing it, just really solid,” said Truex, who now has 28 career wins. “At the beginning of the race, I thought we were going to run 15th or so. Man, I just really can’t believe it. I’m kind of speechless.
“This feels pretty amazing. Phoenix has been a tough one for us.
“I wish it was November and I was in the Final Four,” he added with a smile, referring to the season championship finale at Phoenix Raceway later in the year. “Just so thankful and proud of everyone at JGR, everyone who makes this possible.”
Logano’s Ford was statistically the most dominant car on the afternoon, leading 143 of the 312 laps and winning Stage 2 — his first stage win of the season. Ryan Blaney of Penske Racing won Stage 1 (his first stage win of 2021), and all three Penske Racing cars finished in the Top-10. The Penske trio of Logano, Blaney, and Keselowski led 197 laps in all, accounting for 63 percent of the race.
Logano began alongside Truex on the front row for the last restart and challenged for the lead, but even with a better inside starting position, he couldn’t hold off Truex.
“I was surprised he was able to hang with me on that [final] start,” a disappointed Logano conceded of Truex’s winning move. “He had a good start too, but I had a good one on the bottom and I thought might have short-cut it on the dogleg and I thought, boy I might have him cleared. Then we went into that corner still door-to-door and when you’re door-to-door the outside car has control.
“I’m pretty sure even if I beat him even on that start he was still going to hound me and probably get by me. They had the best car. We had a good car for sure, but once they tuned it in toward the second stage, it was the best car on the race track.”
Denny Hamlin, Truex’s JGR teammate, was third, followed by Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott, last November’s Phoenix champion, in fifth.
Kevin Harvick, a nine-time Phoenix winner, finished sixth, his fourth Top-10 finish in the first five races of the season. Kyle Larson, the winner at Las Vegas last week, was seventh, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron eighth, and JGR driver Christopher Bell and Blaney rounding out the Top-10.
The three Hendrick Motorsports cars that rallied to a Top-10 finish were outstanding even if he didn’t win. Due to inspection difficulties, Elliott, Larson, and Byron had to start from the back of the field on Sunday. Despite hitting the wall and pulling out an early race caution flag, the fourth Hendrick vehicle, driven by Alex Bowman, finished 13th.
Larson, in particular, demonstrated resiliency. He recovered to finish in the Top-10, even leading a lap a third of the way through the race, but was relegated to the back of the lead lap cars twice more due to pit road speeding violations.
As the series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 next weekend, Hamlin, Keselowski, and Logano — all still waiting for their first 2021 wins — are 1-2-3 in the championship standings, with Hamlin leading Keselowski by 39 points (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
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