By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Martin Truex Jr. finally ended his Kansas hex.
Truex streaked away on the final restart with two laps left in Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400 to win his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.
Truex led a race-high 104 of 267 laps to win for the ninth time in his career and for the second time this season. Three times in the past, Truex had led the most laps in a Kansas race—without winning.
But on this Saturday, Truex had the speed and the closing power. On successive restarts at the end of the race, which produced an event-record-tying 15 cautions, Truex jumped in front of polesitter Ryan Blaney and stayed at the head of the pack.
Brad Keselowski rallied from two laps down to finish second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Blaney and Kyle Busch. Series leader Kyle Larson came home sixth.
“It feels great,” Truex said. “It’s definitely been a thorn in our side. That’s for sure. You know for years and years even, before I was with this (Furniture Row) team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal.
“Proud to get these guys back in victory lane. This is our home race track — the guys from Colorado. Appreciate all the fans. We got a lot of fans from Colorado here today. I met a bunch of them before the race and hopefully they’re all psyched.”
But the race wasn’t just about elation. There was a sobering aspect, too. One lap after Truex took the lead from Blaney on a restart following the 10th caution, a Lap 200 wreck stopped the action.
As Joey Logano and Danica Patrick were racing through Turns 1 and 2, battling for the 12th position, Logano’s No. 22 Ford suddenly snapped to the left, turning Patrick’s No. 10 Ford hard into the outside wall.
Patrick’s car erupted in flames, and she and Logano rode the outside wall until, a moment later, Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Ford barreled into the wreck.
NASCAR stopped the race while safety workers cut the roof off Almirola’s Fusion and extricated him from the car. They placed Almirola on a backboard and rolled him to a waiting ambulance on a gurney. Almirola was airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center for observation.
Logano was unhurt but visibly shaken when he exited the infield care center.
“Yeah, I’m OK,” Logano said. “Just saying a lot of prayers for Aric right now. A lot of us took a hard hit. Something broke on my car. I don’t know what it was. I noticed it as I was trying to go in (to Turn 1). I tried to back it off but you’re going 215 (mph) and it’s hard to check up. The car just took a big step sideways into the corner and I hooked Danica.
“You can see the right front (tire) popped,” Logano added as he watched a video replay. “I just hope everyone is OK. I hope Aric is all right. That’s the last thing you want to see, a big hit like that for anyone. It’s unfortunate for everyone. Let’s hope that Aric is all right.”
In Patrick’s case, the accident ruined her most promising run of the season and left her bemoaning her ill fortune.
“We were having a really good race and having fun out there and had a lot of speed,” Patrick said. “I kind of felt like Wonder Woman (one of her sponsors) for a little while. All I know is that I all of a sudden crashed. …
“When he said he had a failure, I can’t say it made me feel that much better in the moment. I’m just frustrated for the lack of breaks I get. It seems like every time things are going better and something happens, I get crashed or am in a crash.”
After the accident, the race was red-flagged for 27 minutes, 41 seconds for track cleanup, and Truex and Blaney subsequently traded the lead. Blaney liked his chances after beating Truex off pit road under the 13th caution on Lap 245.
But Truex got a huge launch to the outside of the polesitter and quickly pulled ahead.
“I felt that we had a great short run car tonight, and I thought that was going to play right into our hands at the end,” said Blaney, who led 83 laps. “The 78 (Truex) got us on that restart somehow. I don’t know.
“I was super loose there on the last restarts, and the 78 got me spinning my tires a little bit. It kind of stinks. I think that it says a lot about this team to go out and lead some laps and go have a shot at winning races.”