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Davidson: Truex the Cup winner at Phoenix

Avondale, AZ, Mar 14/21 (by John Davidson): Martin Truex Jr finally scored a victory at Phoenix Raceway in his 31st start at the one-mile raceway, the fifth different winner in the five 2021 season races. Truex led on three occasions for 64 laps, well short of Joey Logano's six sessions leading for a total of 143 laps but "once they got 19 car tuned in he was the fastest car on the racetrack," according to Logano after the race. Logano finished in second place 1.7 sec behind Truex.

Early in the race, Truex brushed the wall, giving the crew a challenge. "About lap 67, I hit the fence off of turn two. Our car was super tight to start off the race. It wasn't any good at all," Truex explained. "I can't believe I'm standing here right now. It's just unreal. To hit the fence, to go to the back, to fix it, to make some huge adjustments and for us to be able to run as good as we did at the end there, I'm speechless. Just an awesome job by everybody, James (Small, crew chief), Blake (Harris, car chief) and all the pit crew guys fixing it.

"I thought at the beginning of the race we were gonna run 15th or so. Man, I can't really believe it, I'm kind of speechless. This feels pretty amazing, you know? Phoenix has been a tough one for us and to come here and win this, I wish it was November, but hopefully we can come back here in November and have a shot at being in the Final Four. Man, just so thankful and so proud of everybody at JGR [Joe Gibbs Racing] and everybody who makes this possible."

Before the start of the race, five cars got sent to the back of the field: William Byron, Kyle Larson and Cody Ware for failing pre-race inspection; Chase Elliott for side skirts that NASCAR did not like the looks of and Quinn Houff for a driver change.

In observation of Women's Month, Lyn St. James, former Indy Car and sports car racer, waved the green flag to start the race.

Denny Hamlin finished third after leading 33 laps: "I think we are happy with that. Obviously, we want to win with our Toyota but certainly the short tracks is something we want to put a lot of emphasis on this year. We just didn't have the results on the short tracks that we wanted last year, but getting the first short track win here for JGR – one, three is a good sign that we worked on the right things and we are headed in the right direction."

The final restart saw Joey Logano leading with Truex on the outside line. Logano drove down to the wall at the dogleg and Truex stayed high in the PJ1 traction compound. "I was surprised he was able to hang with me on that start. Once they got [the] 19 car tuned in he was the fastest car on the racetrack," said Logano. "We were a second-place car and finished second, won a Stage and second in the other Stage, so a lot of points. I hate finishing second, though. It really stinks, but, overall, this has been a good racetrack for us. The last few times we've been here is first, third and second, so we're all over it, just needed that last run not to have a caution. I think we were in a pretty good spot to maybe run that thing out, but, overall, that was where we had it."

Next week's race is back on the East Coast at Atlanta Motor Speedway, followed the next week by the return of Cup racing to a dirt surface for the first time since September of 1970 at the NC State Fairgrounds track in Raleigh, NC. Richard Petty won that race over Neil Castles.

• Click HERE for the race results

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