Martin Truex Jr. continued his dominance in stages, winning the opening stage of Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Truex passed Kyle Busch for the lead on Lap 68 and cruised to win the stage on Lap 80.
Truex has a series-high 12 stage wins this season. He’s won four of the past seven stages, dating to last month’s race at Michigan.
Busch was second at the end of the stage. He was followed by Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray. Matt Kenseth was sixth and followed by Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott.
Larson, who started at the rear because his team did not get through inspection in time to qualify on Friday, climbed into the top 10 on Lap 50. Larson passed Kenseth for fifth on Lap 67.
Ty Dillon had brake issues had to pit, falling more than a dozen laps behind before repairs were made.
There were no incidents in the opening stage.
NASCAR has issued two fines to crew chiefs for loose lug nuts last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
Brian Wilson, crew chief for Paul Menard in the Xfinity race, was fined $5,000 for a loose lug nut. Menard finished ninth.
Kevin Bellicourt, crew chief for Justin Haley in the Camping World Truck Series, was fined $2,500 for a loose lug nut. Haley finished 10th.
There were no other penalties.
The drivers labelled the “Big 3” keep reaching new milestones as they tear through the 2018 Cup season.
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are the only drivers to win on 1.5-mile tracks this season, sweeping all seven so far.
They’ve combined to win 14 of the first 19 races this season, with Truex claiming the latest on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.
Truex’s win gives him four this season while Busch and Harvick have five each.
With Truex’s victory, the “Big 3” are the first trio of drivers to win four or more races each through 19 races since 1974.
That year, the “Big 3” were Cale Yarborough (eight wins), Richard Petty (six) and David Pearson (four).
On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte said despite their dominance so far, he doesn’t believe all three members of the “Big 3” will make the Championship 4 in November.
“I don’t think the three in any way shape or form are guaranteed to make Miami,” Letarte said. “Everybody’s ready to put the ‘Big 3’ in Miami in the final four, I’m not. There’s way too many challenges along the way. I’m confident that all three won’t be at Homestead.”
Watch the videos above and below for more.
The second half of Cup tests on Charlotte’s road course will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. It is open to the public.
Testing today are: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon. Chris Buescher is in a Chevy wheelforce car.
Last week, several Cup drivers tested on the course for a day. Bubba Wallace crashed early and left the test because his team did not have a backup car.
Jimmie Johnson had the fastest lap in last week’s session, according to NASCAR timing and scoring. Johnson had a lap at 1 minute, 17.4 seconds. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin each had a lap at 1:17.5 last week.
On Monday’s NASCAR America, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton discussed the winners and losers among drivers in Saturday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.
Letarte singled out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as one of the losers after he failed to overtake Alex Bowman in the playoff standings. Bowman entered the race as the last driver above the cutoff line for the 16 driver field in the playoffs.
Bowman earned his first DNF after he crashed from a flat tire and finished last.
Meanwhile, Stenhouse finished 26th, one lap down after he had to pit twice early in Stage 1, the first time for a cut tire. He is now nine points behind Bowman for the final playoff spot.
“To only gain 10 points on a driver who finished last in the field is a huge missed opportunity,” Letarte said. “When you look at drivers scoring 30, 40, 50 points each, Paul Menard picked up over 30. So the chance was there to gain (on) that bigger group and he just didn’t do it. So when I look at what Ricky Stenhouse did, he really missed probably 15 or 20 points. I know it was a flat tire, there’s always a reason. But in the end you have to make the playoffs, you have to go out there and take it from Alex Bowman, who has put him in that position.”
Burton picked Menard as a winner. The Wood Brothers Racing driver placed 11th Saturday after finishing fifth in Stage 1 and 10th in Stage 2.
He is now 18th in the standings, 23 points back from Bowman
“They performed well, got good stage finishes and did what they needed to do,” Burton said. “This team is starting to get a little bit better every single week. I find it very interesting that back there for that 16th spot it’s really a fight of mediocrity, to be honest with you, and who is going to not mess up.”
Watch the above video for more.