LOUDON, N.H. – Martin Truex Jr. continued his utter dominance of NASCAR’s stage-based system on Sunday afternoon, leading every lap to win the first stage of the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Truex started from the pole and held serve from the initial start all the way to the green-checkered flag, crossing the line .391 of a second in front of Matt Kenseth after 75 trips around the ‘Magic Mile’.
The stage win was Truex’s field-leading 14th of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
“I think for the position we are in, we’d much rather go for the playoff point over those guys that did pit,” said Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn. “I just don’t see how you can give up those bonus points at this point.”
“We’ve had good track position the whole time … it definitely will be a little more different, restarting as far back as we are, but I know he’ll be fine. It’ll be a little difficult. We just have to keep the fenders clear and we will make it up there in plenty of time.”
Truex led from the drop of the green flag after fellow front-row starter Jimmie Johnson jumped the initial start and was hit with a pass-through penalty as a result.
While Johnson faded, Kyle Larson rose after starting at the rear due to failing post-qualifying inspection and having his time disallowed on Friday evening. It took Larson only 30 laps to move into the top 10 from 39th, and he restarted sixth after the NASCAR-mandated competition caution at lap 35.
Truex took off but saw his teammate Erik Jones pound the outside wall on the lap 41 restart, suffering a flat right front tire after contact with Kasey Kahne and drawing an immediate caution once again.
That was of no consequence to Truex, however, who continued to pace the field and only saw the field come back to him when Cole Whitt’s motor expired with eight laps left in the stage, forcing the third yellow of the stage and setting up a two-lap dash to the stage break.
Kenseth ended up second at the conclusion of the stage, followed by Larson, whose incredible drive through the field saw the No. 42 Target Chevrolet finish third.
Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott completed the points-scoring drivers in the top 10 at the end of the first stage.
After his penalty for jumping the initial start, Johnson rallied back to 12th by the time lap 75 went on the board.
Following pit stops at the stage break, the field was brought onto pit road with 80 laps complete and red-flagged due to a portion of the track coming up in Turn 3.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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