DOVER, Del. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. stood next to the 60-pound metallic gold Monster trophy on the victory lane stage and was uncertain about how many fingers he should flash for his celebratory photo.
“Two for the season or three for Dover?” Truex asked.
How about one of each?
Truex solved his snapshot situation about as efficiently as he weaved through traffic from the back of the field to win a Monday race at Dover International Speedway for the second time in his Cup career. Truex won his first career NASCAR Cup race on June 4, 2007, at Dover and 12 years later used another Sunday rainout to take the checkered flag.
“I’m going to lobby for all Dover races to be on Mondays,” Truex said with a laugh.
He knows how to win on Sundays, too. Truex is warming up in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing and won in the No. 19 Toyota for the second time in three races. Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, won at Richmond three weeks ago and is hitting his stride as the summer stretch approaches.
“We’ve had some really strong race cars at a lot of racetracks,” Truex said. “For a lot of reasons, we haven’t been able to show it, been having issues that set us back. It’s been tough. The last couple weeks I just feel it’s execution. We’re doing all the little things right.”
Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn didn’t let rain, an inspection failure that dumped the car to the rear or even a maligned race package affect their push toward the finish. Truex, who is from Mayetta, New Jersey has long considered Dover his home track, led 132 laps and dominated runner-up Alex Bowman by a breezy 9.5 seconds to win at Dover for the first time since 2016.
He had no complains about the new high drag, high downforce, 750 horsepower package that led to track-record speeds posted in qualifying.
Kyle Busch, the 2015 NASCAR champion, peppered his comments on the package with profanity and said his complaints to NASCAR would fall on deaf ears. Kevin Harvick said cars are “hard to race ” under the package. Team owner Bob Leavine tweeted he agreed with Busch and wrote “this package sucks.”
Truex brushed off the complaints.
“We all had to deal with the same thing,” Truex said. “Obviously, we dealt with it better than everybody else.”
Bowman finished second for the second straight week in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Kyle Larson, Harvick and Chase Elliott rounded out the top five. Elliott gave Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet their first wins of the season at Talladega last week. Bowman and Elliott made it another solid race for a manufacturer that was in dire need of a boost.
“We at least had a shot at it. It’s really all you can ask for,” Bowman said. “We had a miserable start to the reason. We really did a good job resetting in the off week.”
But all the teams are chasing Gibbs.
JGR has seven wins in 11 races this season and has established itself as the team to beat.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Gibbs said. “As everybody knows, in pro sports these things can go and come very quick. The hardest thing to do is to stay up there.”
Truex has been as reliable with Pearn in his first season with Gibbs as he was for years at the since-shuttered Furniture Row Racing. Truex, who has 21 career wins, made it to victory lane for the first time in 2007 but didn’t win again until 2013. He hasn’t sniffed much of a victory drought since 2015, winning 19 races and a series championship over that span.
“This track is a big part of the reason I got to where I’m at,” Truex said. “Without tracks like this and Loudon, Watkins Glen, I would never have been noticed.”
Here are other items of note from Dover:
Kyle Busch matched Morgan Shepherd’s NASCAR record with 11 straight top-10 finishes in the first 11 races of the season. Busch was 10th for the second straight race. Shepherd reached the mark in 1990 driving for Hall of Fame car owner Bud Moore. Busch started the streak when he finished second behind teammate Denny Hamlin in the Daytona 500. He also has three wins, two thirds, a sixth, an eighth and two other 10th-place finishes to go with his victories during the streak.
Hamlin felt ill after the race and was attended to by medical staff on pit road after he finished 21st. Hamlin was treated and released from the NASCAR medical care center.
Jimmie Johnson holds the track record of 11 victories at Dover, where he finished 14th. Johnson has been stuck on 83 career wins since he last reached victory lane on June 4, 2017, also at Dover.
Work will begin immediately on new $5.5 million garage at Dover that should be ready for the fall race. The current garage area has been in place since the Monster Mile’s first race on July 6, 1969. Among the improvements: 44 garage bays for the Cup cars.
The series shifts to Kansas Speedway, where Kevin Harvick is the defending race winner.
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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