DARLINGTON, S.C. – Martin Truex Jr. had just a little bit left in the tank at the end of the opening stage of Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500, making a last-corner pass of Kyle Larson for his 16th stage win of the year.
Larson may have led 78 consecutive laps in the first segment, but Truex led the one that counted after Larson lost momentum passing a slower car.
Truex powered to Larson’s inside in Turns 3 and 4, finding enough drive off the corner to beat Larson to the line by .041 of a second at the green-checkered flag.
With his stage win, Truex has now accumulated 36 playoff points.
Kevin Harvick dominated the earliest stages of Sunday’s race from the pole, jetting out to a big lead over outside front row starter Martin Truex Jr. before the night’s first caution flew on lap 16.
As Trevor Bayne and AJ Allmendinger slowed after Bayne lost a tire and hit the wall, the leaders dove down pit road and Kyle Busch won the race off pit road, while Harvick dropped to 10th on a slower stop.
Green flag conditions returned on the 22nd round, with Kyle Larson nailing the restart to power past Busch on the bottom groove and assume the point position.
Larson opened up a full four seconds over the field before the second accident of the race on lap 41, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got sideways exiting Turn 4 and nosed into the outside wall, sustaining significant damage to his No. 17 Ford that honored Darrell Waltrip’s 1992 Cup paint scheme.
With Larson holding the lead off pit road, racing continued on lap 46, when Truex and Harvick settled back as Larson opened up a two second gap again after just 10 laps.
It looked like Larson would cruise to the stage win, but Truex turned on the afterburners with 10 to go in the stage, closing down a one second gap to mere car lengths after passing Harvick for second.
That led to Truex’s stage-ending heroics, with Denny Hamlin coming in third, just half a second in arrears.
Harvick crossed the line fourth and Brad Keselowski was fifth.
Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon completed the points-scoring drivers in the top 10.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the first stage of his final Southern 500 in 12th.
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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