Martin Truex Jr. has about 40 laps to go and Clint Bowyer is getting closer.
In a race to see who could better preserve their car, Truex survived Bowyer and then withstood a four lap charge from Joey Logano to win the NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night.
"I was struggling in the last 40 laps," Truex said. "I did not turn around, I was just, very tight in the last heat, I just had to hold it in. Being in front, it was important tonight."
It's for this reason that Truex gave Joe Gibbs Racing its sixth win in nine races this season and won for the first time in his career his career on circuits of less than one kilometer.
"At the end of the day, we went to see him and you are terribly tight behind people," said Bowyer.
Truex led 186 laps, a top in the race, and took the lead for the last time after the green flag pit stops that started with just over 80 laps to go. With only 40 points remaining, Bowyer challenged what appeared to be a faster car, but the latter eventually gave way to Logano, who also seemed to have the fastest car of the first two. .
Truex expertly navigated traffic jams and never let it pass for the first time in 81 Cup Series starts on a short track. This is his 20th career win and his 17th of the last four seasons.
"It means a lot to finally break through," said Truex in Victory Lane. "I hope it was a helluva show. It was really fun driving."
Logano stood firm for second place. Bowyer was third and Kevin Harvick fourth, giving Stewart-Haas Racing two of the top four. Local favorite Denny Hamlin was fifth.
"We were close, but not enough," said Logano. "Not enough time there … A funny race, that's it Three weeks in a row, I had the impression that we had a car that could win the race and we did not get it. We did not win, it's a bit frustrating, but frustrated by the second, it's a good sign. "
The finish stage was set when the standings were mixed from the 318th lap, when the cars at the front started to fight under a green flag.
When they all had new tires and enough gas to finish, Truex took over the advantage, followed by Bowyer, Logano, Harvick and Hamlin. Brad Keselowski dropped to eighth place over the cycle and Kyle Busch, seeking his third straight win on the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval, his fourth of the season and his second consecutive rank, fell back in the 10th place.
Joe Gibbs said that he could not explain the season's dominant start to his team, but he will enjoy it for the duration of the match.
"Sometimes in professional sports, you know, things are going well," Gibbs said. "I think that's why you should enjoy it in professional sports because you know, chances are it will not happen anymore."
Eight cars failed the pre-inspection, three of which failed twice. Among them, the local favorite, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Matt Tifft, three-time winner of the 0.75-mile oval.
As a result, NASCAR disqualified its qualifying speeds, sending them to the back of the field, banned their pit selections and sent one engineer back from each team for the race.
Five other teams failed the inspection and saw their qualifying speeds and pit selections declined, also sending them to the back. They were seven-time series champions Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Joey Gase.
BAD LUCK LARSON
Kyle Larson's slow start to the season continued, allowing him to go to bed early.
The contact with Daniel Hemric at the start of the second leg gave Larson tires some friction. When he came back to gear after halting under the green, friction continued and he hit the Turn 1 wall just at the 127th turn of the night.
Larson is waiting for the truce with the series for Easter.
"It's been a shabby start to the year," said Larson. "We had a decent speed, we did not have the speed tonight but the weeks we had we still have problems so I hate the start of the season that I had but I 've had a bad time. hope this break of the season has come a long time and we can regroup and try to come back better with a little luck. "
Larson only comes twice in the top 10 in nine starts.
WHO IS HOT, WHO IS NOT
Kyle Busch finished eighth to push his series into the top 10 at 11 races.
Chase Elliott started the night with 10 points but finished 15th and has only two top-10s this year.
The series takes its traditional weekend for Easter before heading to Talladega Superspeedway in two weeks.