FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. cruised to victory at Fontana on Sunday, claiming the first win of the season for last year’s NASCAR Cup Series champion.
After Kevin Harvick’s quest for a fourth consecutive victory essentially ended with an early smack into the wall, Truex dominated his 16th career victory. He easily held off defending Fontana champ Kyle Larson, who was 11 seconds behind in second.
“I just had to take care of my tires, and once we got out in clean air, this car was unbelievable,” said Truex, who became the third driver to win from the pole at Fontana. “This is a dream come true. People kept asking, ‘When are you going to win again? When are you going to win any stages?’ Well, here you go.”
Truex finished fourth at Fontana last year, but his Furniture Row Racing Toyota was too quick for the field in a fairly clean race. Kyle Busch was third, and Brad Keselowski fourth.
Truex led 125 laps overall while winning both stages and winning a race for the third time in his career. He also accomplished the feat at Las Vegas and Chicagoland during his championship 2017 season.
“I would have liked to be one spot better, but I couldn’t even see Martin,” Larson said.
Harvick’s bid to become the 14th driver ever to win four straight races ended when he hit the wall after contact with Larson on the 37th lap. Harvick’s car was repaired and he kept racing, but finished 35th.
Here are more things to know about the race at Fontana:
SMACK: Harvick had won in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix before arriving in his home state for an attempt to become the second driver in this century to win four straight. Harvick was running third when he moved down the track toward Larson on the second turn, possibly upset about Larson’s driving earlier. Harvick’s right front and right rear both hit the wall. His flapping bumper was the most obvious problem, but he made a nice save down the track to avoid an interior wall.
JJ IN 9TH: Six-time Fontana champ Jimmie Johnson finished ninth for his first top-10 finish of the season, ending a 10-race skid outside the top 10 — the worst such stretch of his career. Johnson’s winless streak reached 28 races, also his longest in a career that began in 2001.
BACK AND FORTH: Truex and Busch traded the lead during the final stage, but Busch had a problematic pit stop that left his car handling poorly. Truex passed Busch for good with 32 laps to go.
IN FIFTH: Joey Logano finished fifth after winning the Xfinity race on Saturday. Logano has three top-five finishes already this season, and four in the top seven.
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