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Davidson: Bristol Truck Series – Rookie dirt racer Truex Jr. dominates

Bristol, TN, Mar 29/21 (by John Davidson); Martin Truex Jr never looked like a Truck Series dirt track rookie at Bristol, winning all three Stages in the Pinty's Truck Race on Dirt in a one-off drive in a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck. Ben Rhodes took second place. "That was a blast. I'm still really surprised," said Truex. "I wanted to run this race so I could get more experience for the Cup car, and then we got out there in practice and it felt really good and I was having a lot of fun, so I just kept trying to work with the guys and tell them what I needed."

PHOTO NCWTS BRISTOL LESSARDQuebecker Raphael Lessard finished third (Nigel Kinrade Photo)

After severe flooding in the area Saturday led to submerged parking lots and several schedule changes, the Pinty's Truck Race on Dirt started at noon on Monday. Sheldon Creed moved out to a lead of over three-fourths of a second while the second and third spots and farther back kept swapping as the track changed and drivers learned the surface's character. Tanner Gray caused the first caution with a spin. Creed continued in the lead, chased by Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton and Austin Hill. Martin Truex Jr drove through traffic, passing trucks high and low until getting into a battle for fourth, following Crafton and Hill before getting around Hill into position before Carson Hocevar's spin-and-continue brought out the race's second yellow.

[Note: There were a lot of cautions in this race. Check out the ‘Cumulative Report’ for more details.]

Chandler Smith got a slight tap from behind, spinning and clipped by Tyler Ankrum in the first significant impact of the race which went green with two laps left in the first Stage. Martin Truex Jr drove from fifteenth at the start to an outside lane pass in the final turn to win the first Stage.

Stage pit stops took on a different look at the Bristol dirt races with the regular pit crews staying home while the on-site mechanics and fabricators changed tires and fueled the trucks. This was not a disadvantage though, as the field restarted in running order after the Stage breaks, instead of pit stop efficiency determining the restart order.

John Hunter Nemechek spun after getting tagged by Matt Crafton, stopping against the outside wall and Derek Kraus slid into the stalled truck, breaking the radiator on Nemechek's racer and ending his race.

A few laps into the restart, Jennifer Jo Cobb's spin brought out another caution, with Truex leading Ben Rhodes, Sheldon Creed and Austin Hill. Stewart Friesen moved around Chase Briscoe to take fifth just before the yellow flag.

Norm Benning got a flat left rear and stopped his truck on track bringing out a new caution with Truex still in front. A spin by Myatt Snider slowed the field briefly then Truex took the lead for the closing laps of the second Stage.

Kyle Larson went high to get around traffic and he slammed into the back of a slow-moving Mike Marlar, ending Larson's day and leading to Danny Bohn siding into Larson's already damaged truck and bringing out a red flag so the radiator fluid from Larson's truck and the damaged trucks could be cleaned off the track.

Another pair of cautions led to a restart with 13 laps left in the race, Ben Rhodes missed a shift on the restart, fading out of second briefly before he retook the position from Raphael Lessard, but Truex drove away from the rest of the field, leading by nearly a second and a half with five laps to go before taking the final flag over a second ahead of Rhodes.

"It's unbelievable really," commented Truex. "I guess they had to put dirt on Bristol to get me back into victory lane here.

"That was a blast. I kept thinking, 'what's going to happen next, am I going to get a flat tire or something stupid?' This 51 is pretty much used to finishing in victory lane, so a lot of pressure there, so I'm glad we could get it done.

"I learned a lot. It was really amazing just how much the track changed, but I'll have to say this thing stayed really, really good the whole time. I think if you've got a good car, you are going to be good all day long. It just depends on what they do to the track. It's getting hotter, it's going to keep drying out and get slicker, so we will see what they do to prep it, but no matter what they do, that was a blast and I'm looking forward to this afternoon."

Ben Rhodes described the closing laps and his missed shift: "We were running him (Martin Truex Jr.) back down those last few laps, but yeah, just the worst restart of my life. Early in the race, I had an issue of getting it into fourth gear, and missed a shift early on and really didn't think anything of it. I had clean shifts afterwards, and then just missed it. At the end of the day, still really solid. We came here and did exactly what we said we wanted to do. We hit all of our goals, just sucks to be the first loser."

• Click HERE for the Cumulative Race Report
• Click HERE for the Race Results

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