South Africa

Martin Truex Jnr dominates at Darlington for third win of season

Martin Truex Jnr won for the third time in the 2021 season on Sunday when he captured the Goodyear 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

A dominating win it was for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver as he led 248 of 293 laps. At times, his margin over the closest driver behind him was more than 10 seconds – or a third of a lap at the 1.33-mile egg-shaped oval.

"We had good balance," said Truex, the 2017 Cup champion.

"The car would do what I wanted it to do. I just had to manage those long runs."

Truex's other wins this year were at Phoenix on March 14, and Martinsville, Virginia, on April 10.

"Hopefully we can keep this rolling," he said.

The victory was Truex's second at Darlington but it didn't come without a late race challenge as Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports hunted him down over the final 30 laps, made his way to Truex's rear bumper and stayed there until fading with five laps to go.

Truex's margin of victory over Larson was 2.51 seconds.

"It was loose that last run and I was nervous with the 5 (Larson) catching us. We got mired in some traffic there," he said. "That's always tough."

Larson said, "I was surprised I was able to get to him", suggesting he had been too patient in his charge.

"He was just a little bit better than I was in long runs. I wish I could have taken advantage of the opportunity."

Kyle Busch, who won a week ago at Kansas, had the lead before blowing a tyre and spinning on lap 22. But he came back from that and finished third.

"Solid day overall," Busch said.

"Just missing a bit on the long runs. Seems like could fire off with Truex there and hang with him a bit. Actually, we'd catch him for about five laps and then it was over."

William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports was fourth and Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin was fifth.

Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick won two of the three Darlington races last year and finished third in the other. But all those races were run in cars with more downforce and 200 less horsepower – 550 versus 750. Harvick finished sixth.

Both Hendrick's Chase Elliott and Stewart-Haas Racing's Aric Almirola were forced to start from the rear of the field - Elliott for unapproved adjustments to his car and Almirola for twice failing pre-race inspection.

Almirola's day ended when he was tapped from behind and slammed into the inside wall.

Elliott, on the other hand, advanced to the top 10 well before the end of the first 90-lap stage. The defending series champ finished seventh.

Next up on the schedule is a race at Dover International Speedway's Monster Mile in Delaware on May 16.

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