Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team faced multiple early problems at Martinsville Speedway.
Truex and his JGR teammates battled ill-handling cars from the drop of the green flag. He was dinged for a commitment line violation while coming to pit road at the end of Stage 1. And at one point, he was running 19th, the highest Toyota driver, but in danger of going a lap down.
But on lap 500 Wednesday night, Truex was the winner of the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500. It was a second consecutive win for Truex, who won at the facility last fall, and the first win of the season for Truex and crew chief James Small.
“We’ve been working a long time on trying to figure this place out, and just chipping away at it,” said Truex of his 27th career win in the NASCAR Cup Series. “The last couple of years we’ve been really strong — ’18 was a heartbreaker going at the end of the race there. Last year, to get the win, and this year, just hats off to the guys.
“We started the first run and pushed the right front tire off, and we were terrible. Really good adjustments by the guys, want to thank all them. Congrats to James on his first win, he’s doing an awesome job and really proud of him. It’s a big day for us.”
Truex took the lead on Lap 370, and held it for the final 131 laps. Those were the only 132 laps that he led, and there was only one caution after Truex took the lead, on Lap 397. After his team kept him in the lead coming off pit road, he cleared the field on the restart and was never challenged.
Ryan Blaney climbed to second in the final 45 laps, but could not erase the deficit to the front and finished over four seconds behind Truex.
Completing the top five were Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Chase Elliott. Logano led a race-high 234 laps and won Stage 1.
Alex Bowman finished sixth with Matt DiBenedetto finishing seventh. William Byron wound up eight with Kurt Busch ninth and Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top 10. Johnson led 70 laps and won Stage 2.
Darrell Wallace Jr. finished 11th in what he called the “most important race” of his career at the start of the day, driving a Black Lives Matter paint scheme. Wallace challenged inside the top 10 during portions of the race and stayed on the lead lap throughout. He also finished inside the top 10 in both stages.
There were 14 cars on the lead lap by the finish. Kyle Busch finished 19th and was never a factor. Busch was two laps down at one point in the night, battling an ill-handling car and damage to his Toyota.
Matt Kenseth finished three laps down in the 23rd position. Denny Hamlin was also not a factor, finishing three laps down in 24th. Hamlin fought brake issues and overheating.