Martin Truex Jr. was untouchable at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Monday.
Truex led all but 47 laps of the 301-lap race on the way to his third win of the season. The dominating victory also pushes Truex to first in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings.
Truex looked like he was going to cruise to a win but ended up having to get through three late-race restarts to snag the win. Noah Gragson crashed with 31 laps to go and forced the teams in the top 10 to choose between two and four fresh tires on a pit stop.
The No. 19 went with two tires to keep its track position. With the rest of the top five making the same decision, that turned out to be the right call. Truex restarted third after Gragson’s crash behind Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon after they stayed out. Truex easily passed both immediately after the restart.
He then held the lead over Joey Logano on the final two restarts of the race. Those restarts came for a multi-car crash that included Alex Bowman and Chris Buescher and Christopher Bell’s wreck.
Truex started the postponed race alongside teammate Christopher Bell on the front row and took the lead on lap 2. Pit cycles were basically the only thing that stopped him from having the lead the rest of the way. Austin Dillon led the second-most laps of any driver in the field behind Truex’s 254. Dillon led 12.
Truex entered the race weekend as the favorite despite being winless at New Hampshire. He had that status because of a streak of top-12 finishes that dated back to 2016 and clearly lived up to that billing on Monday.
Ryan Blaney’s chances at a win end late
Ryan Blaney was running second to Truex when Gragson crashed. He had pitted a lap before Truex on the race’s last green-flag pit stop cycle of the day in an attempt to gain time on the No. 19 car. That move didn’t work; a slow pit stop by Blaney’s crew ended up losing him time.
Blaney also took two tires after Gragson’s crash and was going to restart near the front of the field. But he left his pit box too soon after his team put the right-side tires on. Since his tire changers were still on the right side of his car, Blaney ran over the front air hose while leaving his pit stall and had to restart the race at the back of the field.
Blaney ended up finishing 22nd.
Chevy’s bad day
Truex was the first of four Toyota drivers who finished in the top 10 while four Ford drivers also finished in the top 10. That left just Kyle Larson in third and Dillon in 10th among Chevy drivers at the front of the field.
Chevy was clearly outpaced by the other two manufacturers on Monday. Jones came back to finish 11th despite being in two cautions and Chase Elliott finished 12th as he is still on the outside of the playoff field. Elliott will likely need to get a win in one of the six remaining races before the postseason to get a spot in the 16-driver field thanks to his absences for a broken leg and a suspension for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Charlotte.
The playoff bubble with six regular-season races left
The race for the final spots in the playoff field is getting close.
Eleven drivers have won a race so far in 2023 and are all guaranteed to get into the postseason unless a winless driver wins each of the final six races of the regular season. Kevin Harvick is the top winless driver in the points standings and looks like a lock to make the playoffs. He’s 137 points ahead of 17th in the standings.
Brad Keselowski also looks good to make the playoff field. He’s 108 points up on 17th and his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Chris Buescher is 97 points ahead of 17th.
Things get really tight after that. Bubba Wallace is currently in 15th in the standings and is just two points ahead of Daniel Suarez in 17th while Michael McDowell occupies the 16th and final playoff spot by a point over Suarez.
AJ Allmendinger in 18th is currently 20 points back of McDowell while Ty Gibbs is 41 points back and Bowman is 42 points back after missing races because of a back injury sustained in a sprint car crash earlier this year.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Joey Logano
3. Kyle Larson
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Tyler Reddick
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Bubba Wallace
9. Austin Dillon
10. Chase Briscoe
11. Erik Jones
12. Chase Elliott
13. Michael McDowell
14. Alex Bowman
15. Chris Buescher
16. Daniel Suarez
17. Justin Haley
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
19. AJ Allmendinger
20. Harrison Burton
21. Todd Gilliland
22. Ryan Blaney
23. Ross Chastain
24. William Byron
25. Austin Cindric
26. Ty Dillon
27. Ty Gibbs
28. Ryan Preece
29. Christopher Bell
30. Ryan Newman
31. BJ McLeod
32. Noah Gragson
33. Corey LaJoie
34. Aric Almirola
35. Cole Custer
36. Kyle Busch
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