Truex clinches regular season title with Stage 2 win at Darlington

Martin Truex Jr. added another accolade to his expanding resume on Sunday night.

Truex clinches regular season title with Stage 2 win at Darlington

At Darlington Raceway, Truex won his 17th stage of 2017 and clinched the regular season championship. 

Truex led three times for a total of 34 laps in the first two stages in the Southern 500. Denny Hamlin was second followed by Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray,  Austin Dillon and Matt Kenseth.

The segment ended under caution (sixth) following Gray Gaulding’s wreck.  

Kyle Larson led the field to green for Stage 2 on Lap 106 followed by Truex, Hamlin, Keselowski, Jones, Kyle Busch, Harvick, McMurray, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Ty Dillon, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne.

On Lap 115, Kurt Busch passed McMurray for eighth-place. After 15 laps, Larson had a 1.4-second lead over Truex followed by Hamlin, Keselowski, Jones, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon.

Daniel Suarez hit the Turn 1 wall on Lap 125 to trigger the fourth caution. He had a left right front and fire under the No. 19 Toyota as he limped to pit road. 

Larson led the field down pit road on Lap 127 followed by Truex, Hamlin, Keselowski, Jones, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Kurt Busch, McMurray and Austin Dillon. Kenseth, Newman, Elliott, Johnson, Ty Dillon, Logano, Paul Menard, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kahne and Michael McDowell rounded out the top 20. Ryan Blaney, who received damage during a wreck in Stage 1, remained on pit road for extended service. He cycled out 26th as the lucky dog. 

Larson retained the lead out of the pits followed by Truex, Hamlin, Jones, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Kurt Busch, McMurray, Austin Dillon, Johnson, Kenseth, Logano, Newman and Elliott. The race returned to green on Lap 130 and Larson crossed over the front of Truex. Keselowski passed Jones for fourth on the next lap — and Harvick followed for fifth. 

Kurt Busch passed Jones for sixth on Lap 134 as the top 17 ran single-file. After 40 laps in the stage, Larson held a .728-second lead over Truex followed by Hamlin, Keselowski, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jones, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Kenseth. 

By Lap 143, Truex cut Larson’s lead to a half-second. He passed the No. 42 on the inside for the lead coming out of Turn 4, five laps later. Hamlin remained third followed by Keselowski, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jones, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Kenseth.

Stenhouse took his damaged car to the pits on Lap 153.

Allmendinger and Matt DiBenedetto collided between Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 155 to ignite the fifth caution. Truex held the point followed by Larson, Hamlin, Keselowski, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jones, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Kenseth, McMurray, Newman, Elliott, Logano, Johnson, Ty Dillon, Earnhardt, Menard, McDowell and Kahne. 

The leaders pitted on Lap 157. Hamlin was the first car off of pit road followed by Truex, Larson, Harvick, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, Jones, McMurray, Logano, Elliott, Kesneth, Johnson and Earnhardt.

Hamlin led the field to the restart on Lap 160 with 40 circuits to decide the stage. Harvick passed Larson for third. On Lap 162, Kurt Busch passed Kyle Busch for fifth, Keselowski dropped to seventh followed by McMurray, Elliott and Austin Dillon. 

Hamlin’s advantage over Truex was cut to .347-seconds with 30 laps to go. Harvick was third followed by Larson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, McMurray, Elliott and Austin Dillon.

Hamlin’s team warns him there is debris on the grille — but they’re not concerned. 

With 25 laps remaining, Truex looked to the inside of Hamlin coming out of Turn 4. On Lap 179, Truex caught Hamlin in Turn 3 and completed the pass on the No. 11 Toyota. 

“New leader, 78,” spotter Clayton Hughes said. 

Harvick remained third followed by Larson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, McMurray, Dillon and Elliott.

Kurt Busch told his team with 19 laps remaining in the stage, “I got not rear grip.” His brother passed him on the next lap for fifth-place. Austin Dillon passed Elliott for ninth. Keselowski took sixth from Kurt Busch with 12 laps remaining. 

Truex’s lead was 1.2-seconds over Hamlin with 10 laps remaining. Harvick held on to third followed by Larson, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, McMurray, Austin Dillon and Kenseth.

Truex extended his lead to 1.832-seconds over Hamlin when Gray Gaulding wrecked on Lap 196. Harvick, Larson, Busch, Keseleowski, Kurt Busch, McMurray, Austin Dillon and Kenseth rounded out the top 10. Elliott, Logano, Newman, Earnhardt, Jones, Dillon, Johnson, Menard, Buescher and McDowell completed the top 20. 

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