Martin Truex Jr. leads at midpoint in final Chase qualifying race at Richmond

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Martin Truex Jr. is halfway to what potentially could be his second consecutive win, leading at the halfway point of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Truex, who won this past Sunday at Darlington, has dominated the race on the .750-mile D-shaped oval, leading 134 of the first 200 laps.

The 400-lap event is the 26th race of the season and the final qualifying race for the upcoming 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.

Matt Kenseth is running second, while third-ranked and pole sitter Denny Hamlin has led the second-most laps (62).

Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski are running fourth and fifth, respectively, while sixth through 10th are Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards.

The race has progressed very quickly, with just three cautions for 16 laps. That’s a significant reason why only 16 drivers are on the lead lap at the halfway point.

Ryan Newman, who is on the Chase bubble, is running 19th.

As for another driver on the Chase bubble, Ryan Blaney saw his playoff hopes end early in the race when his Wood Brothers Ford wrecked on Lap 11, suffering heavy damage to the rear. Blaney, who would have had to win to make the Chase, took his car to the garage.

“There was a spot where I thought I was clear of the 3 (Austin Dillon), I was told I was clear and I wasn’t clear,” Blaney told NBCSN. “Two drivers going for the same spot.

“It’s a shame it happened so early. I thought there would have been a little bit more give between both of us but maybe a little bit of stubborn headed on both our parts, but I should know better than that.”

On Lap 94, after being sideswiped on the left side by teammate Jeff Gordon on the front straightaway, cutting down a left rear tire, Chase Elliott hit the Turn 1 wall, sustaining moderate damage.

After repairs were made, Elliott is currently scored 22nd at the halfway point.

Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson was running sixth on Lap 199 when he cut a tire and went into the wall.

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