Such was the context for Martin Truex Jr. heading into Monday’s Bristol dirt race in the Camping World Truck Series. Despite the race being delayed two days, and despite having only two truck series races to his name, the full-time Cup Series driver overcame the obstacles to pick up the truck win Monday afternoon.
The finish is Truex’s best in the truck series. In his previous two races in the circuit (Milwaukee in 2005 and Michigan in 2006), Truex JR. finished 19th (Milwaukee) and 34th (Michigan).
After what seemed like eternity, the trucks finally took to the dirt right after the clock struck noon on Monday. Sliding, grooving and passing immediately made itself known through a handful of laps, as Sheldon Creed quickly weaved through traffic and took the lead less than five laps into the race.
While two minor cautions and a Chandler Smith-Tyler Ankrum mix-up hampered any possibility of finding a groove through the first 40 laps of the race, full-time Cup driver Martin Truex Jr. maneuvered through contact with Creed in a one-lap dash at the end of stage one to pick up the stage victory.
Less than 10 laps into stage two, grooves became more noticeable as rubber continued to be put down. As grooves were beginning to be utilized, lengthier cautions and heating tempers were more apparent among many a driver, especially in regard to John Hunter Nemechek, who was involved in a three-truck collision on lap 48.
Despite the slickness and caution abundance over the next 40 laps, Truex continued to be flexible in his groove selection and utilized the top lane to breeze ahead of a surging Ben Rhodes to pick up his second stage win of the day.
While Truex continued to adapt to the circumstances and utilize all lanes, a slew of other Cup full-timers began to find solid runs, as Chase Briscoe, Kevin Harvick, and Bubba Wallace were all inside the top 15 with less than 40 to go. Even still, the trio was unable to find the speed or grooves to catch up with Truex, who quickly rocketed ahead to a two-second lead with 35 to go.
Although Truex continued to dominate, constant cautions and subsequent red flags prevented the Joe Gibbs driver from completely running away with the race. Even still, another dominant jump on the restart with 12 to go helped give Truex the necessary distance and necessary speed through the grooves to hold off Rhodes and win the race.
Rhodes finished second. With the finish, Rhodes has now finished inside the top 10 in four out of five Truck Series races this season.
Among the six full-time Cup drivers, Briscoe finished the highest after Truex (second). Larson, meanwhile, finished the worst (35th) after a wreck earlier in the race.
The truck series will be off for two weeks before returning to action on April 17 at Richmond Raceway. Coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m. EST on FS1.