TRUEX GETS FOURTH CUP WIN OF SEASON
Hodges News Service
SPARTA, Ken.--Driving a race car that ran like a Kentucky thoroughbred, Martin Truex Jr. claimed his fourth victory of the season and his second straight at the 1.5-mile track. It feels good, said Truex. You never know what is going to happen and we had such a strong Toyota tonight. They weren't going to beat us. We keep working on the race car and try to stay calm and not get ahead of ourselves. We had to make a lot of adjustments tonight on the car and had to battle back a few times after getting passed for the lead. But this entire team was amazing tonight.
It was a perfect weekend for Truex in the Bluegrass state. He not only won the race, he qualified on the pole, won the first two stages and collected the seven maximum playoff bonus points. He remains third in both overall driver points and playoff points.
Ryan Blaney finished second and continues to have a solid season with four top-fives.
While Blaney continues to look for his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the year, his finish put an emphatic end to a streak of three races in which he finished 18th or worse.
His car came in and mine kind of faded a little bit and he won the race, said Blaney. That stunk. I thought we had a shot at it tonight, but I'm really proud of the gains we made all race though, to be honest with you.
It's a positive, that's for sure. I hate it. I thought we were in a good spot there restarting fourth and Martin struggled a little bit the first couple laps and I thought I could get by him, but just couldn't quite get a run on him.
Third-place finisher Brad Keselowski was the biggest threat to Truex after a rough early pit stop. He led for 38 laps.
We took a step up this week, but obviously we weren't as good as the 78, Keselowski said. It was a nice little boost, but we still have some work to do. We had better speed than we've had at the mile-and-a-halves. I thought we might have had a shot at it if we could have restarted fourth there, but we kind of cycled back to sixth and it wasn't enough to be able to make something happen.
Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Top-10 leaders after 19 of 36: 1. Kyle Busch-799, 2. Harvick-740, 3. Truex-689, 4. Logano-648, 5. Keselowski-630, 6. Bowyer-629, 7. Kurt Busch-601, 8. Larson-591, 9. Hamlin-559, 10. Blaney-546.
Hendrick Motorsport drivers need to pick up the pace. Neither of the four Hendrick drivers have a win and are not among the top-10 leaders. Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is the highest ranked driver at 12th with 484 points. Chase Elliott is 14th with 469 points. Alex Bowman is 15th with 427 points, and William Byron is back in the 22nd spot with 335 points.BELL RALLIES FOR XFINITY WIN
Christopher Bell passed Daniel Hemric with 17 laps to go in Saturday's 200-lap Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway and went on to claim his second series victory of the season.
Hemric finished second, while Kyle Busch, who led the most laps (111) was third. Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, John Nemechek, Ryan Reed, Paul Menard, and Austin Cindric were the remaining top-10 finishers.
Top-10 leaders after 17 of 33: 1. Sadler-608, 2. Hemric-608, 3. Custer-605, 4. Bell-591, 5. Allgaier-569, 6. Reddick-541, 7. B. Jones-500, 8. R. Truex-479, 9. Tifft-458, 10. Cindric-428.
The results of the NASCAR Truck Series race held Thursday, July 12 at Kentucky Speedway: 1. Ben Rhodes, 2. Stewart Friesen, 3. Matt Crafton, 4. Brandon Jones, 5. John Nemechek, 6. Grant Enfinger, 7. Todd Gilliland, 8. Noah Gragson, 9. Dalton Sargeant, 10. Justin Haley.
Top-10 leaders after 12 of 23: 1. Sauter-533, 2. Gragson-491, 3. Moffitt-442, 4. Friesen-414, 5. Enfinger-410, 6. Rhodes-407, 7. Crafton-397, 8. Haley-393, 9. Snider-318, 10. Coughlin-315.
BE CAREFUL OF WHO YOU WRECK
Wrecks can be dangerous in more than one way. Just ask Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Plenty of drivers were mad after last week' s wreck-fest at Daytona, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the only one who needed a security escort afterward.
Stenhouse triggered two wrecks Saturday night that collected more than half the field and knocked out former Cup series champions, Daytona 500 champs and a slew of perennial race contenders.
It was that kind of night in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, with crashes throughout the event. Stenhouse found himself involved in five of the eight crashes, and caused two of them. Several drivers were upset with Stenhouse. That led the track and NASCAR to provide a security escort "to ensure his safety as he walked through the garage area."
The race's defending champion, Stenhouse had a fast car once again, and won the race's first two stages. But some drivers felt he drove too aggressively. Count Kurt Busch among those not happy with Stenhouse. Busch's night ended after a crash caused by Stenhouse in Stage 2, and he later tweeted his thoughts.
Thank you to everybody @StewartHaasRcng, car was fast. Sucks we got caught up in the #StenhouseDD (DemolitionDerby) but it's a product of him being 17th in points and racing for every point, tweeted Kurt Busch.
Busch's brother, Kyle, got knocked out in a subsequent crash sparked by Stenhouse, and noted, Same guy that caused the first one caused the second one there.
Stenhouse, who finished 17th, admitted he erred in causing those two crashes.
I was frustrated with myself causing crashes like that, he said. You don't ever really want to do that.
But the Roush Fenway Racing driver didn't feel a need to apologize. He's ranked 17th in the points, the first driver outside the playoff field at the moment, and he could use a win to make the postseason.
No, it's aggressive speedway racing, Stenhouse said. We needed to win to get in the playoffs, so it is what it is.
Denny Hamlin, who won the closest Daytona 500 in race history in 2016, said the elements were there for the race to turn into a disaster.
I think that the cars are going to be closer together, less room for error, most likely more wrecks, he said. And I think this race always lends itself to being more of a wreck-fest than ones in the past, which makes it very exciting.
Racing Joke: Kurt is visiting at his brother Kyle's apartment. He picks up the telephone and hurriedly dials 911.
I have an unusual situation here, said Kurt. My brother's wife just shot him in the foot for stepping on the floor she just mopped. I think he will be OK if you can get an ambulance over.
Can you take the gun away from her, asks the 911 Operator.
No, not yet. The floor's still wet. replied Kurt.
Weekend Racing: The Trucks will make their annual trip to Eldora Speedway, the only dirt track on their schedule. The Cup and Xfinity teams will be at the 1-mile New Hampshire track in Loudon, NH.
Wed., July 18; Truck Series race 13 of 23; Starting time: 9 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Sat., July 21; Xfinity Series race 18 of 33; Starting time: 4 pm ET; TV: NBCSN.
Sun., July 22; Cup Series race 20 of 36; Starting time: 2 pm ET; TV: NBCSN.
Racing Trivia Question: What town did Bill France Sr. live in before moving to Daytona Beach, Fla.?
Last Week's Question. Who owns Kentucky Speedway? It is owned by Bruton Smith's Speedway MotorSports Inc.(SMI).
Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR photojournalist and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: email@example.com.