Martin Truex Jr. quite honestly has supplanted Kyle Busch as the top driver at the Kentucky Speedway now. Truex, won this race in back-to-back years (2017, 2018) and after being pedestrian a year ago, finished second on Sunday for his third top two finish in his last four Kentucky starts.
What he did in this year’s Quaker State 400 though, well it was nothing short of impressive.
He was one of just two cars to fail pre race inspection twice. That meant he had to give up his top 10 starting position to go to the back in a track that’s just so difficult to pass on. Eight of the past nine years have seen the race winner come from a top 10 starting spot in fact.
Still, Truex quickly found his way to the front on a day drivers were complaining about not being able to pass. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver finished 24th in Stage 1 but was up to fifth by the end of Stage 2. He took over the lead on Lap 181 and would lead 57 laps towards the end of the race but had to settle for runner-up.
If not for late race contact with Kevin Harvick, Truex may have won. He was left frustrated as Ryan Blaney narrowly got past him for the lead on a late race restart but a caution flag flew after. He thought he should still be in the lead but timing and scoring said otherwise.
That left him without the lane choice on restarts. Luckily, he was able to come back and challenge Kevin Harvick for the lead on the next run and was side-by-side again with him before a caution flag flew for Matt Kenseth on Lap 260.
That set up a three lap shootout in which Truex was there with Harvick again for the win. But, Ryan Blaney made it three-wide exiting Turn 4 and slipped up on the apron when he hit the drain. That forced him into Harvick which Harvick got into Truex, which allowed Cole Custer by for the win.
Truex, led 46 laps in the 2016 race. He swept both stages in his wins in 2017 and 2018 after leading 152 and 174 laps respectively. Now, he leads 57 more.
“I feel like we’re back,” Truex continued.
This was his first top five finish since his win at Martinsville last month but his third top 10 over the last four races run though too.