Martin Truex Jr. loses Southern 500; clinches regular-season title

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — Steam rose from his car and sweat poured from Martin Truex Jr.’s face, while Denny Hamlin celebrated a Southern 500 victory Sunday night with a burnout.

It likely would have been Truex smoking his tires and saluting the crowd had his right front tire not blown while leading with two laps to go.

Instead, an exhausted and thirsty Truex — his drink container ran out with 100 laps to go and there was no chance during a green-flag pit stop for his crew to give him another bottle — had to settle for an eighth-place finish.

“It’s interesting, (crew chief Cole Pearn) said he wanted to wait two more laps to pit, and with two to go we blew a tire,’’ Truex said. “It’s crazy how those things work out sometimes. Sometimes it’s just not your night, you know. Tonight wasn’t our night.’’ 

Truex limped around the track for the final two circuits to record his sixth top-10 finish in the last eight races.

“I was so focused on trying to stay off the fence,” Truex said, leaning against his car. “The last 100 laps the groove in (Turns) 3 and 4 was so high, literally just scraping the right rear. I think I scraped it five or six times before I blew a right front and actually hit it. I did the best I could. Just come up short.’’

He took the lead on Lap 326 of the 367-lap race and seemed poised to score his second consecutive win in this event.  

It helped that his biggest challenger, Hamlin, missed pit road while leading on Lap 314. The one advantage Hamlin had despite the miscue was that he had fresher tires than Truex, who stopped on Lap 304. Still, Hamlin needed the race to go to the finish without a caution. The race went caution-free the final 100 laps.

The consolation for Truex was that he clinched the regular-season title, earning 15 playoff points. That goes with the two playoff points he earned for winning both stages.

With one race left until the playoffs start, Truex has earned 52 playoff points and could enter the postseason with at least a 20-point lead on his closest competitor. The advantage should help him advance to the second round and likely the third round.

“Bittersweet night,’’ Truex said. “Lot to be proud of. Clinching the regular season is really, really tough to do. To run at the level we have all season long and as consistent as we have, on pit road, on the race track, engines, just the whole nine yards, putting good setups under the race car for each and every race, just really proud for this team.’’

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Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer tied at top of Xfinity playoff standings

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Justin Allgaier and Cole Custer are tied for the top spot in the Xfinity playoff standings after the playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway.

Each driver has 2,057 points.

Allgaier finished third after bouncing back from losing a tire on Lap 19 and going two laps down. He was two laps down for 27 laps and one lap down for 30 before getting back on the lead lap.

Custer, who finished fifth, won the first two stages of the race, earning two playoff points in the process.

The top five in points are Allgaier, Custer, Elliott Sadler (-2), Daniel Hemric (-5) and William Byron (-6).

Click here for the points standings.

Results from Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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Tyler Reddick scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win, leading a 1-2 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Reddick beat teammate Brennan Poole by 14.5 seconds in the playoff opener.

Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last seven series races. He led twice for 66 laps. Reddick had not led any laps until Saturday night.

Playoff contender Justin Allgaier rallied from two laps down after a right front tire went down early in the 200-lap race to finish third. Ryan Preece placed fourth. Rookie Cole Custer, who won both stages, finished fifth.

Click here for race results

Tyler Reddick wins playoff opener at Kentucky for first career Xfinity victory

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Tyler Reddick, a part-time driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, led 66 laps to win the Xfinity Series playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway.

In his rookie year in the series, Reddick earned the win in his 15th start in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

The 21-year-old driver beat teammate Brennan Poole, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Preece and Cole Custer.

“I don’t know if it was necessarily me making a statement, it’s just Chip Ganassi Racing making a statement,” Reddick told NBCSN. “(Crew chief) Mike Shiplett has brought me from ground zero all the way to here. All the guys at Ganassi have gone above and beyond in helping me become a better driver. To be here today is surreal.”

Reddick, who had not led a lap before Saturday night, took the lead for the first time on Lap 126 of the 200-lap race.

Reddick is the fourth Xfinity driver to get his first win this season.

Saturday’s win comes after it was announced on Sept. 14 that Reddick would join JR Motorsports full-time in 2018.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Cole Custer

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

MORE: Race results

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Justin Allgaier bounced back from losing a tire and going two laps down to finish third. He leaves Kentucky tied with Cole Custer at the top of the playoff standings. … Brennan Poole’s runner-up finish is a career-best result in 77 starts … Ryan Preece has finished in the top four in all three of his starts for Joe Gibbs Racing. … Ryan Reed finished 10th, ending an eight-race streak without a top 10.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Sam Hornish Jr. finished 31st, nine laps down after contact with Brandon Jones on Lap 53 caused him to hit the wall at the exit of Turn 2, forcing him to pit for repairs. … William Byron finished 18th, two laps down after he was forced to pit on Lap 101 for a loose wheel.

NOTABLE: Reddick is the seventh different driver to win in the last seven races this season. … Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last eight races at Kentucky.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I was about the color of my car (red) there for a little bit.” – Justin Allgaier after finishing third following a rebound from going two laps down early in the race.

NEXT: Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 30 on NBCSN.

Social Roundup: Sights from first Martinsville night race

Marty Snider
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The wait is over.

Night racing at Martinsville Speedway is now a reality.

After tests and practice sessions, the half-mile track in Virginia is hosting the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and its qualifying races tonight for the NASCAR Late Model Series.

In attendance at the race are Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez, as well as NBCSN’s Marty Snider, who is watching his son Myatt compete in the race.

Here’s a look at some of the sights and sounds from the historic night for NASCAR’s oldest track.