RICHMOND, Va. — Martin Truex Jr. and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates dominated throughout the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, in the first two playoff races and Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.
After winning the first of 10 playoff races two weekends ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Truex in his No. 19 Toyota took the checkered flag at the Federated Auto Parts 400, sweeping the two 2019 Richmond races. It was his sixth win of the season and 25th in his Cup career.
“Any time we’re winning races, I’m happy, and I feel like you gotta pinch me a little bit,” he said after being out front for 109 of 400 laps at the 0.75-mile track.
Truex led his three teammates in what was initially the team’s first 1-2-3-4 finish ever, but Erik Jones, who was fourth, was disqualified when his No. 20 Toyota failed post-race inspection. Kyle Busch finished second after leading a race-high 202 laps, while Denny Hamlin came in third. Truex and Busch also won the first and second stages of the race, respectively.
The Gibbs cars have been fast all year and now account for 15 wins in 28 races.
Sound 🆙 for this selfie video! @MartinTruex_Jr is PUMPED and he’s got something to tell you after winning the #Federated400 and 🧹sweeping🧹 Richmond this year. #ALLINRICHMOND#NASCARPlayoffs // @JoeGibbsRacingpic.twitter.com/VTdIZ5lfXf
— Richmond Raceway (@RichmondRaceway) September 22, 2019
Truex’s Vegas win automatically advanced him to the second playoff round when the field shrinks from 16 drivers to 12 following next Sunday’s elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Based on points, Busch and Kevin Harvick also locked themselves into the next round.
“Just not in the same league tonight as the four Gibbs cars,” said pole-winner Brad Keselowski, who finished fourth in his No. 2 Penske Ford and is fourth in the standings.
“It’s definitely not good news. We’ve got work to do. They’re really strong. We’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads up, but we threw everything we had at them … and just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it.”
Jones is now last in the playoff standings and risks being eliminated from title contention without a win Sunday at Charlotte’s part-oval, part-road course.
But Hamlin is fifth in the standings and in a solid position to advance to the second round, which begins Oct. 6 at Dover International Raceway.
“Really no pressure at this point with our points spread that we got there,” said Hamlin, who joins Busch with four wins in 2019. “Just go out there and have fun, and whatever happens happens. I’m pretty confident that we can go there and be a contender to win just like we have every other week.”