Martin Truex Jr. sweeps first two stages for fifth time

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DARLINGTON, S.C. – Martin Truex Jr. swept the first two stages of a Cup race for the fifth time this season, winning the second 100-lap segment in Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Truex took the lead from Denny Hamlin on Lap 179 and held first for the final 22 laps. The stage ended under yellow because of a multicar crash.

Truex has a series-leading 17 stage victories this season and 37 playoff points (five points per each of his four wins). He will gain at least another 15 playoff points tonight by clinching the regular-season championship ahead of the Sept. 9 finale at Richmond International Raceway.

Truex will carry the playoff points through the first three rounds, which conclude with points resets and eliminations.

Hamlin had taken the lead on a Lap 157 pit stop under a yellow flag for a spin by A.J. Allmendinger. He finished second ahead of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch.

Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon and Matt Kenseth also earned stage points with top-10 finishes.

Truex won earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway after winning the first two stages.

There were three yellow flags in the second stage, the first for Daniel Suarez hitting the wall. The Joe Gibbs Racing rookie was eliminated in 38th and will need a win at Richmond to make the playoffs.