Martin Truex Jr. knows how to win big races this season.
Truex captured his second marquee win of the year as he won the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sunday at Darlington Raceway.
Truex also won the Coca-Cola 600 in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway by leading 392 of the 400 laps. Darlington and Charlotte are considered two of the crown jewels of the Sprint Cup Series along with with Daytona and Talladega. Truex nearly won at Daytona in February, finishing second.
“Southern 500 is one of the ones we always want to win. Been wanting to win this for a long time,” Truex said. “I always loved this race track and run well here but it has seemed to slip away.”
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It’s Truex’s first Darlington win and second at the track for single-car Furniture Row Racing, which went to Victory Lane in 2011 with Regan Smith. Furniture Row has just four wins its in history, and two of them have come at the Lady in Black.
It’s the second time in a row a driver has won the Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 in the same year. Carl Edwards, who did it last year, finished 19th Sunday.
Truex was in the top 10 throughout the night but said he didn’t think he had a chance with 100 laps to go. After a couple of adjustments, things picked up for Truex.
Truex took the lead from Ryan Newman on lap 338 and led the final 28 laps for his second win of the season. His pit crew gave him two good stops and he was able to hold off Kevin Harvick for his fifth career victory.
“We kept digging and never gave up on it. We kept making good adjustments, and the pit crew stepped up and got us the lead at the end,” Truex said. “I’m proud of the effort.”
With two big wins under his belt and leading more than 1,000 laps this season, Truex said he hopes his team has what it takes to be a contender in the Chase for the Championship. He finished in the top four last season for the first time in his career.
“We could honestly be sitting here with eight or nine wins,” Truex said. “With that being said, we got a legitimate shot at this championship. It has been a good season but definitely could be a great season.”
Harvick finished second and led a race-high 214 laps, but troubles on pit road ended his shot to win. Harvick lost 17 spots during the race because of the pit crew. After the race, he voiced his displeasure.
“I’m over being a cheerleader. These guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road,” Harvick said. “We got great cars week after week and we continue to give it away on pit road. We have championship cars but are mediocre on pit road.”
The rest of the top five was made up Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. It’s the second straight strong run for Larson, who won at Michigan last week. Larson led 45 laps at Darlington.
“I thought maybe there was some things that could have gone our way to maybe get the win, but we’ll stake take a third, build on our momentum leading to the Chase,” Larson said.
Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray are holding on to the final three Chase spots headed into next week’s race at Richmond, the final one before the Chase begins. McMurray leads Ryan Newman by seven points. But Newman and Larson both failed postrace inspection and Newman might have points docked from him when penalties are issued later this week.
In his final Darlington start, Tony Stewart finished 35th after his engine blew on lap 318 and remained winless at the track. He also was involved in an incident with Brian Scott on lap 203 in which he put Scott into the wall. Stewart was summoned to the NASCAR hauler following the race.
“He wrecked,” Stewart said of Scott.
Jeff Gordon, who was subbing for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr, finished 14th.