LOUDON — For Martin Truex Jr., having a case of Mondays isn’t so bad.
The New Jersey native won three rescheduled races on a Monday at Dover Motor Speedway, and on Monday he added another to his total at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Truex led 254 laps and won every stage en route to a dominating win in the NASCAR Cup Series Crayon 301. He held off Joey Logano and Kyle Larson in two late restarts for his third win of the season and 34th of his career.
“I hate to say it’s a Monday thing, but Mondays have been good for us,” Truex said.
Truex, driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, has now led triple-digit New Hampshire laps six times and more than 1,000 total laps in his Magic Mile career. However, he had not visited Victory Lane here in a Cup car in the previous 29 starts. His previous best finish at Loudon was third, three times. NHMS is one of many “home tracks” for Truex, as his story here dates back to his childhood accompanying his father, Martin Truex Sr., as he raced in the former NASCAR Busch North Series.
“It’s no secret that I’ve been looking for this one for a long time,” Truex said. “It was worth the wait.
Logano finished second, followed by Larson. Kevin Harvick, in his last career outing at New Hampshire, finished fourth, while Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
“We certainly didn’t dot all the I’s and all the T’s, but we did a good job all weekend,” Harvick said.
A large crowd returned to the track after the rain from the race on Sunday. It was a hot and humid day, but fans were undeterred. They were treated to a dominating performance from Truex, who performed a very smoky burnout down the straight in celebration.
“We love coming to Loudon,” said No. 19 team owner Joe Gibbs. “It’s a big deal coming here, and to be honest we have good confidence when we race here.”
Truex regained the lead from Kevin Harvick, who opted not to stop, on the first lap after a restart on lap 278, with Logano coming in second. Another warning flew just two laps later when Alex Bowman was wrecked due to contact with Ty Gibbs. Truex had a good run over Logano on the restart on lap 285, but caution flew again three laps later when pole sitter Christopher Bell hit the wall. On the next restart on lap 293, Logano lined up behind Truex and Larson alongside him, but neither could take first place.
“When you’re on your home race track, the second hurts more than anywhere else,” said Logano, a native of Middletown, Connecticut.
A good green-flag pitstop with just over 60 laps to go put Truex ahead of Ryan Blaney, who started the previous lap from second place. Truex took the lead after Austin Dillon stopped on lap 258. Noah Gragson blew a brake rotor on lap 271 which led to another series of pit stops. Truex crew chief James Small and most of the leaders opted to change two tires, and Truex came out in third place behind Harvick and Dillon, who opted not to stop.
“I was up last night stressing out, thinking about all the different scenarios,” Small said. “I knew that in the end it was (two tyres) the decision to make. We would have been buried if we had taken four.
Truex had to fight back after a pitstop on lap 164 in which Aric Almirola and a few other riders only took two tires while Truex changed four.
However, the Almirola crew did not fully tighten the right rear tire and he crashed into the wall at turn two on the ensuing restart. Larson led the pack on the following restart, but Truex quickly passed him to reclaim the lead.
The pit stops after stage two brought another mix of pit strategies.
Larson came in for the serve, while Truex and Logano stayed out. Truex hung on to the lead for the next 40 laps, but as he battled Blaney he signaled that the car was getting looser and more difficult to manage.
Truex took the lead on Lap 3 from Bell and held it until a warning on Lap 29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took no tires while William Byron took two, and they won the race out from pit road.
Byron quickly passed Stenhouse on a lap 34 restart and hung on until Truex passed him at turn 4 on lap 43. Truex checked and built the lead to 3.5 seconds at the end of stage one on lap 70.
Truex has also won this season in Dover and Sonoma. He started from pole at Darlington and led 145 laps, his previous season lap record led before Monday, before crashing out.
REMARKS: Kyle Busch’s difficult weekend continued on Monday when he hit the wall on the final lap of Stage 1. He had to start at the back of the field after repairing his car following damage suffered during practice and qualifying on Saturday. He finished last in the field of 36 cars… During a cycle of green-flag pit stops in Stage 3, Harvick surpassed the 16,000 laps led for his career, which ends after this season.
Jason Remillard is an editor and page designer for Newspapers of New England. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @racinwithjason.