Martin Truex Jr. needed less than a lap in overtime in order to take the lead and win the Chase opening Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
“Darlington all over again, right?” Truex said to NBC Sports in victory lane. “The racing gods don’t want us leading too much, they got to make it difficult on us.”
This is the second time in three races Truex has won after leading less than 35 laps. He won the Southern 500 after leading just 28.
Truex started fifth after Kevin Harvick went to the back of the field for an unapproved adjustment. After leading 30 laps from Laps 22-51, the racing gods forced the No. 78 to pit road for a shredded tire.
“It was a long way to go at that point,” Truex said. “I was like, ‘On the one hand, here’s the bad luck that’s going to bite us again and on the other we’ve got a long time to pick it up. We’re lucky it happened early.”
By Lap 80, Truex had passed Harvick to get the free pass spot. Truex returned to the lead lap on Lap 121 after a caution for a spin by Brian Scott, but the struggles weren’t completely over.
“In the middle of the race we weren’t that good and we got back in traffic,” said Truex, who was in 15th by the halfway point on Lap 134 and then seventh by Lap 201. “Harvick ran into us and bent our fender I think on purpose and had to come back from that.”
The win is Truex’s third of the season, the sixth of his career and his first ever in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Truex is now qualified for the second round of the Chase.
“We have more races to win and we can win some,” Truex said.
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Chase Elliott led a career-high 75 laps and finished third for his eighth top five … Ryan Blaney finished fourth as the highest finishing non-Chase driver … Alex Bowman led for the third time in his Sprint Cup career and finished 10th for his first career top 10 … Matt Kenseth received a speeding penalty and recovered to finish ninth.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Jimmie Johnson led a race-high 118 laps, but was caught speeding on pit road during green flag stops with 30 to go after pitting from second. Johnson finished 12th … Richard Petty Motorsports caused the first two cautions. A loose tire from Aric Almirola’s pit caused the first on Lap 49 … Brian Scott spun exiting Turn 4 on Lap 121 … Kyle Busch ran in the top five all day until he was caught speeding during green flag stops on Lap 173. Busch finished eighth … After starting from the rear, Kyle Larson slowly made his way into the top five. His day ended in 18th, a lap down after having to pit late for tire problem.
NOTABLE: Truex is only the second driver to win at Chicagoland after starting in the top five … Jimmie Johnson led more than 100 laps for the first time since the April 2015 race at Texas Motor Speedway … Hendrick Motorsports had only led 122 laps in the previous 12 races … Hendrick has now gone 22 races since its last win, matching its third-longest streak in team history.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I need to go run my head through a wall, maybe I’ll feel better.” – Jimmie Johnson after finishing 12th following a late pit road speeding penalty
WHAT’S NEXT: New England 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN