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AP

Truex makes it look easy for third win of season

Profile image for Gary B. Graves
Gary B. Graves, AP

SPARTA, Ky. -- Martin Truex Jr. was dominant throughout and had enough left on a final restart to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Second in points entering the Quaker State 400, Truex started second beside Kyle Busch and won the first two stages. Truex led the final segment by as many as 15 seconds before a final caution created overtime and bunched the field together.

That made no difference, as Truex flew past Busch on the restart and went on to his third victory of the season and 10th of his career. He led five times for 152 of 274 laps in the No. 78 Toyota to draw within a point of series leader Kyle Larson, who finished second in a Chevrolet.

Chase Elliott was third in a Chevy, followed by Denny Hamlin and Busch in Toyotas. Busch led 112 laps but fell short of his third Kentucky victory.

Truex wasn't inclined to let anyone get close in earning his first Kentucky triumph.

Pole winner Busch pounced right away and led the first 66 laps but often had Truex close by in the battle of Toyotas. Truex twice found the speed to make timely passes and take the first two stages, but he saved his best for the last segment.

Running seventh as the third stage began, Truex was back in front within several laps and merely got stronger as he went along. He had a 13-second lead with about 55 laps remaining and was running all alone when Kurt Busch blew an engine with two laps left to create overtime.

It didn't matter.

Truex's dominance stole the spotlight from Kyle Busch, who won the Xfinity Series race earlier Saturday and for a while appeared headed toward NASCAR's first same-day sweep of the two series.

Larson's finish was impressive considering he started 40th after failing inspection Friday. He soon was among the contenders before being penalized for speeding on pit road, overcoming that setback to pass Kyle Busch after the final restart.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. led three laps and finished 12th, one spot higher than he started in his final Kentucky start.