After being postponed twice due to weather, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ inaugural Bristol dirt race finally ran on Monday afternoon and was dominated by Cup Series champion Martin Truex, Jr.
Truex led 105 of the race’s 150 laps and won stages 1 and 2 en route to his race win in his first Truck Series start since 2006.
Although Truex has won a Cup Series title and two-consecutive Xfinity Series championships, this race was Truex’s first-ever win in the Camping World Truck Series. This race also marks Kyle Busch Motorsports’ third-consecutive win in the Truck Series.
Ben Rhodes, who won the first two races of the season and is the only winner this season to not come from Kyle Busch Motorsports, led three laps and finished second, cutting the points deficit to the current championship leader John Hunter Nemechek from 47 points to just 6 points.
Raphael Lessard, Todd Gilliland and Chase Briscoe rounded out the top-five finishers of the race.
Of the other Cup Series regulars who competed in the race, Darrell Wallace, Jr. finished 11th, Kevin Harvick finished 15th, Daniel Suarez finished 17th and Kyle Larson finished 35th after crashing out of the race.
The race had 11 lead changes between six drivers and was run under caution 12 times for a total of 56 laps. The race was also stopped under the red flag on three separate occasions.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ next race will be the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, April 17 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Stage 1 – 40 laps
John Hunter Nemechek started out front, but was unable to lead a lap as he quickly fell into the clutches of Austin Hill. Hill led the field in his no. 16 Toyota, but after leading only two laps, was overtaken by Sheldon Creed.
The first caution came out on lap 15 when Tanner Gray spun, but his truck didn’t suffer from much damage, so he was able to continue racing.
Creed led the field to the first restart on lap 18 and now had Stewart Friesen on his bumper. Much of the top five, which also consisted of Hill, Martin Truex, Jr. and Matt Crafton were running side-by-side behind Creed.
Carson Hocevar brought out the second caution when his truck stopped on the bottom of the track as it overheated.
Creed led the field back to the green flag on lap 31. Truex moved into second, but another caution quickly came out when Chandler Smith spun. Tyler Ankrum tried to avoid Smith’s truck, but crashed into his opponent head-on.
The caution was lifted for a one-lap dash to the stage end. Creed was strong on the inside, but Truex used the drive-off momentum from the outside to take the lead and win the stage.
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Truex, Creed, Zane Smith, Friesen, Nemechek, Hill, Ben Rhodes, Crafton, Grant Enfinger and Johnny Sauter.
Stage 2 – 50 laps
Friesen led the field to the first green flag of stage 2. Friesen and Nemechek didn’t pit under the stage end caution, putting them out front for the restart. He didn’t lead for long as Truex drove right past both drivers, reclaiming the lead after just a few laps.
Nine laps into the stage, Nemechek got a bump from Crafton and spun in turn 2. Nemechek’s truck sat in the outside lane and was hit by Derek Kraus and Timothy Peters. Nemechek suffered damage to his radiator, ending his day. The yellow flag which initially flew for this incident turned into a red flag, stopping the race on lap 11 of the stage.
The green flag flew again on lap 18 of the stage. Truex led still but now found himself having to hold off Ben Rhodes, who moved up to second, but the cautions-breed-cautions theory was becoming reality. After just a few laps, another yellow flag came out when Jennifer Jo Cobb spun around and couldn’t get refired. Another caution came out soon after when Norm Benning had a tire go down after another short run. Another caution came out when Xfinity Series regular Myatt Snider spun in turn 4.
Truex led the restart with 6 laps to go in the stage, holding off a charge from Rhodes one last time to secure his second stage win of the day.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Truex, Rhodes, Hill, Chase Briscoe, Creed, Todd Gilliland, Friesen, Raphael Lessard, Austin Wayne Self and Enfinger.
Race to the finish – 60 laps
Under the stage-end caution, Grant Enfinger and Chase Purdy stayed out, putting them first and second for the restart respectively. Enfinger led the field on the restart, but once again, TRuex took the lead shortly after the restart.
10 laps into the stage, another caution came out. Ben Mike Marlar was going slow on the outside into turn 3. Kyle Larson, with nowhere to go, rear-ended Marlar’s truck and collected Danny Bohn and Brett Moffitt. Bohn and Larson were done for the race.
After a brief red flag, Truex continued to lead the field around Bristol as the battle for second between Gilliland and Rhodes began to heat up.
On lap 119, the caution came back out when Chandler Smith got loose in turn 2 and collected Johnny Sauter. Smith’s day was over. Another caution came out a handful of laps later when Andrew Gordon spun and hit the sand barrels at the end of pit road.
Truex leading the restarts became the norm of the race at this point as he continued to do just that after the restart with 12 laps to go. Truex remained untouchable, and cruised to an easy victory over Rhodes, Lessard and Gilliland.
Featured photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images