Martin Truex Jr. Dominates at Darlington on Mother’s Day

Darlington Raceway, Darlington, SC — May 9, 2021

NASCAR racing on Mother’s Day at Darlington and it’s a throwback weekend with a nod to the sport’s history. On top of that, the lack of repeat winners this year is still one of the main storylines. Denny Hamlin(11), Kevin Harvick(4), and Chase Elliott(9) are still looking for their first victory of the year. All would be considered favorites in today’s race.

The #41 Mother’s Day Ford, driven by Cole Custer sits on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Tire wear is expected to be a factor in today’s race as the Darlington asphalt has been known to be rough on racing slicks. Race sponsor Goodyear will see lots of tire changes and a good tire strategy will be key to having a shot at the win.

Brad Keselowski(2) sits on the pole today with Harvick beside him on the front row. A total of 293 laps make up the 400 miles to be run. Stages are 90/95/108 and tire wear will dictate the frequency of pit stops, more than fuel usage. The defending series champion, Chase Elliott, will start from the rear after making unapproved adjustments to the car after inspection.

Stage One

Legendary Richard Petty crew chief and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman dropped the green flag on the field to start the Goodyear 400.  Keselowski jumped ahead of Harvick into the 1st turn. However, he could only hold the top spot for 5 laps as Harvick made a pass for the lead as tires begin to heat up.

Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Freightliner Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Throwback Ford, lead the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Seven laps in Aric Almirola(10) brings out the first, of what will certainly be many, cautions on the day when he spun off Turn 2 and hit the inside retaining wall. Almirola was forced to start at the rear of the field after failing pre-race inspection twice. The damage to his car was extensive and Almirola will finish last.

Restarting with Harvick in the lead, last week’s winner Kyle Busch(18) quickly drove to the front. Busch was approaching a career highlight for laps led when he crossed the start-finish line out front for the 17,999th time in his career. He will have to wait a little longer for that 18K-lap as he spun and scrapped the wall after the right rear tire on his race car went down.

Kyle’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr.(19) inherited the lead as the race went to caution again. Everyone came in on this yellow flag to get fresh tires.

Most of the field pitted again with 35 laps to go for fresh rubber. Truex maintained the lead through that cycle and began to put laps of the slower cars struggling with handling.

Only 16 of the 37 starters remained on the lead lap at the end of Stage 1. Lapped traffic included Keselowski, Bubba Wallace(23), Ross Chastain(42), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47). Truex was followed under the green and white checkered flag by his teammate Denny Hamlin(11).

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 19 Martin Truex Jr. 10
2 11 Denny Hamlin 9
3 8 Tyler Reddick 8
4 5 Kyle Larson 7
5 4 Kevin Harvick* 6
6 22 Joey Logano* 5
7 12 Ryan Blaney* 4
8 9 Chase Elliott 3
9 24 William Byron 2
10 48 Alex Bowman 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Kyle Larson was too fast exiting pit road and will have to start the 2nd Stage from the rear of the field. Kurt Busch got the lucky dog free pass and returned to the lead lap.

Stage 2

Truex and Hamlin led the pack back to the green flag as the rest of the field began jockeying for position while the tires had the most grip. Anthony Alfredo(38) got loose coming off Turn 2 and knocked Cole Custer(41) off the track and into the inside wall.

The wreck was almost identical to Almirola’s. Ironically, both cars are from the Stewart Haas stable, they share the same type of damage, and will finish in the final two positions 36th and 37th.

No sooner had the race gone back to green, than Bubba Wallace bumped Kurt Buch causing Busch to spin on the front stretch. Contact with the inside wall sent Busch’s car to the garage.

Truex, with the fastest and best handling car on the track, continued to lead. With Joey Logano(22), Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and William Byron(24) making up the Top 5 as the race settled into a long run pattern on the restart.

The first green flag pit stops of the day began with 44 laps to go in the Stage as teams follow the trend to split the Stage in half to keep fresh rubber on their cars. After all stops were complete, Truex retained the lead and continued to build the time interval as the laps wound down in Stage 2.

Truex sweeps both Stages and looks to become a three-time winner in 2021, the only two-time winner this year has his work cut out for him. Interestingly, since the introduction of Stage racing, no stage winner at Darlington has visited victory lane at the end of the race.

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 19 Martin Truex Jr. 10
2 18 Kyle Busch 9
3 24 William Byron 8
4 11 Denny Hamlin 7
5 5 Kyle Larson 6
6 20 Christopher Bell 5
7 22 Joey Logano* 4
8 8 Tyler Reddick 3
9 12 Ryan Blaney* 2
10 17 Chris Buescher* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

The Top 5 for most of Stage 2 remain at the front of the field at the start of the Final Stage. Just in a different order. Truex leads with Kyle Busch in 2nd, Hamlin 3rd, Byron 4th, and Logano 5th.

With no cautions at the beginning of the Stage, leaders began to pit with 70 laps to go. Indicating, three stops will be required to finish all 108 laps to the checkered flag. After pit service and with 60 laps to go, it’s Truex still out front, followed by Kyle Busch, Larson, Logano, and Hamlin.

Following the pit strategy, leaders headed to pit road again with under 40 laps to go. Truex held onto the top spot but Kyle Larson used a quick stop to close the gap on the leader. For the first time all afternoon, Truex had a challenger for his lead position.

Kyle Larson(5), Austin Dillon(3), and Chris Buescher(17) race at Darlington / NASCAR Photo

Larson was able to close to Truex’s bumper but could not make the pass. Truex completed his domination of the race and won pulling away as Larson used up his tires trying to take the lead.

Martin Truex Jr. Celebrates his Darlington Win / NASCAR Photo

As a three-time winner in 2021, Truex has put himself in the position of the favorite when the playoffs start in the fall.

Playoff Standings

Denny Hamlin continues to run away with the regular-season points lead despite not scoring a victory yet in 2021. His total of 529 is 151 points ahead of Michael McDowell(278) the lowest ranking driver of those possessing a playoff qualifying win. Aric Almirola is a full 100 points below the cut line after making the playoffs in 2020. Michigan’s own Erik Jones is 80 points out but has been running better in the last few weeks. A tire issue took him out of a Top 15 finish, coming in 18th today.

Rank Driver Points Status
1 Martin Truex Jr. 454 In Win(3)
2 William Byron 428 In Win
3 Joey Logano* 406 In Win
4 Ryan Blaney* 405 In Win
5 Kyle Larson 385 In Win
6 Brad Keselowski* 379 In Win
7 Kyle Busch 373 In Win
8 Christopher Bell 320 In Win
9 Alex Bowman 281 In Win
10 Michael McDowell* 278 In Win
11 Denny Hamlin 529 +161
12 Kevin Harvick* 385 +117
13 Chase Elliott 382 +114
14 Austin Dillon 316 +48
15 Chris Buescher* 287 +19
16 Matt DiBenedetto* 268 Tie
NASCAR Playoffs Cut Line
17 Tyler Reddick 268 Tie
18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 249 -19
19 Ryan Newman* 246 -22
20 Kurt Busch 240 -28
21 Bubba Wallace 223 -45
22 Ross Chastain 218 -50
23 Daniel Suarez 214 -54
24 Ryan Preece 209 -59
25 Chase Briscoe 198 -70
26 Cole Custer* 192 -76
27 Erik Jones 188 -80
28 Aric Almirola* 168 -100

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Goodyear 400 from Darlington Raceway

Position Car Driver Interval Laps
1 19 Martin Truex Jr. 293
2 5 Kyle Larson 2.571 293
3 18 Kyle Busch 6.209 293
4 24 William Byron 17.067 293
5 11 Denny Hamlin 21.939 293
6 4 Kevin Harvick 23.951 293
7 9 Chase Elliott 24.739 293
8 12 Ryan Blaney 26.667 293
9 17 Chris Buescher 27.077 293
10 6 Ryan Newman -1 292
11 14 Chase Briscoe -1 292
12 8 Tyler Reddick -1 292
13 22 Joey Logano -1 292
14 20 Christopher Bell -1 292
15 42 Ross Chastain -2 291
16 3 Austin Dillon -2 291
17 48 Alex Bowman -2 291
18 43 Erik Jones -2 291
19 21 Matt DiBenedetto -3 290
20 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -3 290
21 23 Bubba Wallace -3 290
22 7 Corey LaJoie -3 290
23 99 Daniel Suarez -3 290
24 2 Brad Keselowski -3 290
25 37 Ryan Preece -3 290
26 38 Anthony Alfredo -4 289
27 34 Michael McDowell -5 288
28 77 Justin Haley -5 288
29 53 JJ Yeley -7 286
30 0 Quin Houff -7 286
31 15 James Davison -7 286
32 78 BJ McLeod -8 285
33 52 Josh Bilicki -48 245
34 51 Cody Ware -105 188
35 1 Kurt Busch -187 106
36 41 Cole Custer -196 97
37 10 Aric Almirola -288 5