Martin Truex Jr. continued the streak of different winners to start the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season to five Sunday with his win of the Instacart 500 at Phoenix Raceway. The win was the second of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“Just an awesome job by everybody, James [Small, crew chief], Blake [Harris, car chief] and all the pit crew guys fixing it,” Truex said. “I mean really solid. I thought, at the beginning of the race, we were gonna run 15th or so. Man, I can’t really believe it. I’m kind of speechless. This feels pretty amazing, you know? Phoenix has been a tough one for us and to come here and win this. I wish it was November, but hopefully, we can come back here in November and have a shot at being in the Final Four. Man, just so thankful and so proud of everybody at JGR [Joe Gibbs Racing] and everybody who makes this possible.”
Truex’s win came after contact with the wall early in the race and a lengthy pit stop for repairs.
“About lap 67, I hit the fence off of turn two,” Truex said. “Our car was super tight to start off the race. It wasn’t any good at all. I can’t believe I’m standing here right now. What an effort by my guys on the team. It’s just unreal. To hit the fence, to go to the back, to fix it, to make some huge adjustments and for us to be able to run as good as we did at the end there, I’m speechless. This has been a tough track for us. We struggled here in the fall. We came here with a whole new mindset, a whole new focus on trying to figure this place out, and I’ll be dammed if we didn’t do it. Hopefully, we can keep tuning on this thing and come back for the Final Four in November.”
Joey Logano finished second after leading a race-high 143 laps of the 312-lap race.
Denny Hamlin finished third to, along with Truex, give Joe Gibbs Racing two finishes inside the top-three.
“I think we are happy with that,” Truex said. “Obviously, we want to win with our Offerpad Toyota, but certainly, the short tracks is something we want to put a lot of emphasis on this year. We just didn’t have the results on the short tracks that we wanted last year, but getting the first short track win here for JGR, one, three is a good sign that we worked on the right things, and we are headed in the right direction.”
Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski finished fourth to give Penske two finishes inside the top-five. All three Team Penske cars finished in the top-10 Sunday with Ryan Blaney in 10th.
“Not a bad day. We were just really consistent, top-five all day,” Keselowski said. ”We got the lead, there, towards the end on that one restart and I thought, ‘Oh, man, we’re gonna drive away,’ and I just wasn’t quite fast enough. We learned some things for today. We tried some things here to try to be better for the fall, and I don’t know if they were necessarily better, so a lot to learn.”
Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five after dropping to the back at the start of the race because of an unapproved change to his car and a pit-road speeding penalty.
Truex took his race-winning lead by getting out in front of Logano on the final restart of the race with 25 laps remaining.
“Once they got 19 car [Truex] tuned in, he was the fastest car on the race track,” Logano said. ”We did a good job maximizing our day with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. We were a second-place car and finished second, won a stage and second in the other stage, so a lot of points. I hate finishing second, though. It really stinks, but, overall, this has been a good race track for us. The last few times we’ve been here is first, third and second, so we’re all over it; just needed that last run not to have a caution. I think we were in a pretty good spot to maybe run that thing out, but, overall, that was where we had it.”
Truex took his first lead, also by passing Logano, with 89 laps remaining. After the last of two cycles of green-flag pit stops began with 65 laps to go, Truex gave up the lead to pit with 59 to go. He cycled back to the lead a lap later. Truex continued to run up front until the yellow flag waved for the fifth time with 50 laps remaining. He lost the lead on pit road, and Keselowski and Logano both led laps before Truex got back to the front on the final restart.
Blaney and Logano were stage winners, with Blaney taking the stage-one win on lap 75 and Logano winning the second stage at lap 190.
Keselowski started on the pole and led the first two laps before Hamlin passed him for the top spot on lap three. Keselowski got back to the lead by getting off pit road first during a competition caution on lap 30, but he gave up that lead to Blaney on lap 44. Blaney led the remainder of the stage.
After Blaney, Keselowski and Hamlin combined to lead the first stage, Logano took his initial lead bey being the first off pit road during the caution at the end of the opening stage. He, then, led throughout the second stage, giving up the lead only once to pit during the first cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 142.
Corey LaJoie stayed out to lead laps during the cycle, but Logano was able to pass him to retake the top spot on lap 156. Logano continued to run up front early in the third and final stage before Truex took his first lead.
Kyle Larson was second to Logano when the cycle of stops began, but he was nabbed speeding on pit road for the second time during the race. After starting the race in the back because of an issue getting through pre-race inspection, Larson also was caught speeding in the pits during the early-race competition caution. Even so, Larson finished the race in the seventh position.
Kevin Harvick finished sixth. Elliott and Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron, who also started the race in the back, finished eighth. Christopher Bell finished ninth.
INSTACART 500 RESULTS