Martin Truex Jr. won the first race in the Round of 12, again proving why he is the man to beat for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. As he did in the Round of 16, Truex Jr. took the checkered flag in the first race of the round, thereby guaranteeing his advancement into the next round.
Truex did not have the dominant car in the Bank Of America 500, forcing him to start at 17. Pit strategy surged Truex to the lead.
“We didn’t pass the leaders on the track, we passed them on pit road," said Truex after the race.
There were 10 cautions in all. Each time Truex went into the pits, he gained several positions on exit. Once Truex gained the lead, he kept it for 91 laps and won his sixth Cup race of the year.
Surging into the lead via caution was an important part of Truex's strategy. The Charlotte track is known for being tough to pass on.
Kevin Harvick led the most laps in the race and won both stages to claim the two bonus points. His car slowed a bit late in the race, leading to a third-place finish behind Truex and Kyle Larson.
The race was a tough one for Kyle Busch. He started fourth and had a fast car, leading 22 laps. While running second on lap 136, Busch’s car broke loose and slammed the wall. Repairs were made and Busch was able to maintain the minimum speed, but his race was essentially over. The No. 18 Toyota hit the wall several more times in the race causing considerable damage to the car.
The importance of the NASCAR Championship was evident as Busch stayed with the car after his bouts with the wall. Heat and carbon monoxide fumes entered the car causing Busch to collapse to the ground after he brought his car to a halt at the end of the race. He received immediate medical care before being taken to the medical facility.
“I was just trying to make it to the end of the race and luckily we did,” Busch said. Finishing six laps down and in 29th place, Busch is still in sixth place in the standings because of his 41 bonus points.
Denny Hamlin, the pole-sitter, also felt the heat during the event.
“The humidity is probably what drained me the most today,” Hamlin said. “There’s a lot of salt stains on my suit so that tells me that dehydration was a factor today.”
Sunday’s race is at the dreaded Talladega Motor Speedway where anything can happen. Truex is probably the only driver getting a good night’s sleep this week.