Martin Truex Jr. captured the checkered flag in the 2019 Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, marking his first short-track victory in 81 tries.
The title is also Truex Jr.’s first win as a member of Joe Gibbs Racing, and it wasn’t an easy one.
Truex Jr. led for 186 laps in total, more than any other car, but had to stave off a surge from Joey Logano. The No. 22 car won Stage 2, but Truex Jr. recaptured the lead with a speedy maneuvering off pit road. Clint Bowyer crossed the finish line third but was on Truex Jr.’s tail with 30 laps to go.
All told, Logano held the lead for 52 laps, while Bowyer was never quite able to get ahead. The difference between first and third place was just 0.521 seconds.
Overall, there were eight lead changes and four different leaders throughout the 400 laps.
Kevin Harvick had won the pole at Friday’s qualifying in Richmond, Virginia, but finished fourth after leading for 31 laps to begin. Four of the top 10 finishers from the qualifying round were penalized for failing the pre-race inspection and had to start from the rear: Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson.
Among that group, Jimmie Johnson’s 12th place finish was the best.
Truex Jr. was the pole winner at the 2018 Toyota Owners 400, but Kyle Busch won last year’s race. Busch finished in eighth place on Saturday night after winning the first stage and leading for 101 laps.
Even so, Busch has finished inside the top-10 in all Cup Series races this season—the only driver to do so. Saturday night was his ninth consecutive top-10 race, and he sits atop the standings in the Monster Energy NASCAP Cup Series.
The win did wonders for Truex Jr., who sat 107 points behind first-place Busch heading into Richmond.
As far as owners, this season has been dominated by Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske. Truex Jr. notched Joe Gibbs Racing’s sixth win in nine races this season, while Logano is a Penske driver.
Looking forward in the Cup Series, the Geico 500 hits Talladega Superspeedway in Talledega, Alabama, beginning on April 26.