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Martin Truex continues hot streak with win at Dover

By
Amanda Vincent, The Sports Xchange

DOVER, Del. -- Martin Truex Jr. claimed his fourth win of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and his second in the first three-race round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Sunday when he took the checkered flag in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway.

"We're not messing around, I guess," Truex said. "I don't know. What else can you say? We are here to get it done and, golly, I'm telling you ... just the best bunch of guys you could ever ask for.

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"It's just amazing to drive their race cars and do what we were able to do. I'm just ecstatic. So many people to thank, again. I mean, this is unbelievable, especially here. I love this race track. It's been considered a home track for me for a long time."

The win is the seventh of Truex's career, with four of those wins in 2016.

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Kyle Busch finished second, Chase Elliott was third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Matt Kenseth ended up fifth.

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After losing the lead to Jimmie Johnson on a lap 189 restart, Truex regained the top spot at the end of a green-flag cycle of pit stops on lap 287.

Johnson gave up the lead to pit during the cycle on lap 278. After leading 89 laps, he wound up falling off the lead lap with a troublesome stop that included difficulty getting into his pit stall and his fueler getting the gas can attached the car. The problem was then compounded by a penalty because his jackman went over the pit wall too soon.

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"I think Chad (Knaus, crew chief) still questions exactly what happened, but when I was coming into my pit box, the No. 18 (Busch) and the No. 43 (Aric Almirola) were just leaving theirs, and they were directly behind my box," Johnson said. "I had to slam on the brakes and get turned and get underneath those guys to come in, and I was pretty close to my box, so I assume that just threw the rhythm off the pit stop and somebody came off the wall early.

"Clearly, a mistake, but it's not one that I've ever had happen on the No. 48 team."

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Johnson stayed out longer than the race frontrunners to lead an additional lap during the final green-flag cycle of stops that began on lap 356. By the end of the cycle, Truex was back up front with a sizable lead.

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Inside the final 10 laps, he had a cushion of more than nine seconds, equating to nearly half a lap.

Truex took his first lead of the race by passing polesitter Keselowski on lap six before he gave up the lead to Busch on lap 21. On lap 125, Truex got back past Busch to retake the lead and ran up front until losing the lead to Johnson.

Johnson wasn't the only Chase for the Sprint Cup driver to have problems at Dover.

The track bar broke on Kevin Harvick's car while he was running third, necessitating enough time in the garage to put Harvick more than 40 laps down. With a win last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Harvick had already clinched a spot in the second round of the Chase.

Johnson also advances to round two after salvaging a top-10 finish.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray weren't as fortunate, though. Larson experienced a battery problem, forcing him to give up the seventh position for an unscheduled pit stop on lap 38. When he headed for pit road, he was penalized for having too many of his crew members over the pit wall.

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His race went from bad to worse with a wreck on lap 182.

McMurray, meanwhile, suffered an engine problem. He fell off the pace on lap 167 when his engine dropped a cylinder. It blew, bringing out the caution on lap 193.

"It's unfortunate that both the No. 42 (Larson) and the No. 1 (McMurray) had a problem today," McMurray said. "But, it is what it is, and that's why we race. I'm proud of my team and proud of our guys and all the hard work they've put in."

The caution for McMurray's engine was the fourth and final caution of the race, even though it came in the first half of the 400-lap event. The second 200 laps ran clean.

Two other drivers -- Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher -- also were cut from the Chase with the waving of the Dover checkered flag.

NOTES: Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. started the race on the front row after rain forced the cancellation of qualifying on Friday and the starting grid was set by car owner points. ... Chase for the Sprint Cup competitors Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon also entered the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Dover, but when the Xfinity race was postponed to Sunday morning, all three drivers withdrew from that race, opting instead to focus their attention on the Sprint Cup Series race. Logano and Dillon were replaced by non-Chasers but fellow-Sprint Cup regulars, Ryan Blaney and Regan Smith. ... Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Michael Annett's teams lost their positions in pit selection order earlier in the weekend after each team garnered its fourth written warning because of inspection issues. ... The Citizen Soldier 400 was a Chase for the Sprint Cup elimination race, but Truex and Kevin Harvick entered the race already with their advancement to the next round secure, courtesy of wins in the first two Chase races. ... Matt Kenseth won at Dover International Speedway earlier this season. ... Harvick won last year's Citizen Soldier 400. ... Jimmie Johnson is the winningest driver at Dover with 10 wins.

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