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Martin Truex Jr. earns second win of season with GoBowling.com 400

By Amanda Vincent, The Sports Xchange
Martin Truex Jr. earns second win of season with GoBowling.com 400
Martin Truex Jr. celebrates after winning the GoBowling.com 400 at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night. Photo by NASCAR/Twitter

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Martin Truex Jr. joined Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson as two-time winners in 2017 Saturday night by winning the GoBowling.com 400 at Kansas Speedway.

"It's always good to get a nice beer shower, 5-hour Energy and whatever else they're throwing on us, here," Truex said. "Pretty awesome, awesome day, awesome weekend. This team rocks, man; they're so good.

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"We just stuck with it all night. We had an awesome race car. There's times, there, we looked like we weren't going to have a shot at it. We just kept fighting and made it happen."

Keselowski recovered from a lackluster night to take runner-up honors, while Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.

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"We caught a couple breaks, there, on those restarts and made the most of them," Keselowski said. "That was good. We had a really great Freightliner Elite Support Ford; just kept getting caught in adversity, there. We worked our way through it. It stinks we finished second and still lost points, because we didn't get those stage points."

The race was attrition-filled with the yellow flag waving a track-record 15 times.

The biggest incident was a three-car wreck involving Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Joey Logano. Logano suffered a mechanical issue that sent his car into Patrick's, and Almirola was collected.

Patrick's car caught fire, but she and Logano climbed from their cars under their own power and were treated and released from the track's infield car center. Almirola, though, was cut from his car and placed on a stretcher to be transported to the care center. He was later airlifted to the Kansas University Medical Center. He remained conscious.

"I'm OK, just saying a lot of prayers for Aric right now," Logano said. "A lot of us took a hard hit. Something broke on my car. I don't know what it was. I noticed as I was trying to go in. I tried to back it off, but you're going 215 (mph), and it's hard to check-up."

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The yellow flag waved twice in the final 10 laps, once for an Erik Jones spin with eight laps remaining, and again on the restart that followed when Jimmie Johnson slid through the infield grass with five laps to go. Johnson was on the receiving end of contact when Denny Hamlin made contact with Kurt Busch.

Blaney got off pit road first during a caution at the start of the final stage of the race, but after a few green-flag laps, Truex took the lead. Blaney again got off pit road first when the yellow flag waved again on lap 193 but when the race restarted, Truex returned to the lead.

"It happens, I guess. We weren't very good on the long run," Blaney said. "I felt that we had a great short-run car tonight, and I thought that was going to play right into our hands at the end. The 78 (Truex) got us on that restart, somehow. I don't know. I was super-loose, there, on the last restarts, and the 78 got me spinning my tires a little bit. It kind of stinks. I think that it says a lot about this team to go out and lead some laps and go have a shot and win races."

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Blaney retook the lead on another restart a few laps later, but was shuffled back to fifth after pitting during a lap 216 caution when five drivers remained on the race track. The drivers who stayed out dropped back on the restart, and Kyle Busch took the lead, with Blaney moving into second. Blaney, then, took the lead from Kyle Busch.

Truex retook the lead on lap 243 and led most of the remaining laps.

Blaney was the leader at the end of stage two at lap 160 with Kyle Larson second and Truex third at the end of the second 80-lap stage.

Truex beat previous race leader Kyle Busch off pit road during the caution at the start of the second stage to take the lead, but Kyle Busch was back up front by the time the yellow flag waved on lap 101.

Clint Bowyer stayed out during a caution with just over 20 laps remaining in the second stage to inherit the race lead, but dropped back through the field on the restart, giving way to Blaney.

Kyle Busch won the first 80-lap stage of the race after taking the lead from Kevin Harvick on a restart that followed a lap 59 caution for a Ty Dillon spin. It was Kyle Busch's second stage win of the season, but his first since the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. Truex and Blaney were second and third at the end of stage one, while Harvick drifted back to seventh.

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Truex took the lead from polesitter Blaney on lap 10 and ran up front until Harvick and Dillon opted to stay out during a lap 50 caution for Landon Cassill, the second caution that resulted from an incident for Cassill. The strategy didn't work for Dillon as he drifted back on the restart and eventually spun, but it did for Harvick. He maintained his lead until the restart following Dillon's caution.

A few traditional frontrunners struggled through the first two stages of the race. Logano made two pit stops during a lap 30 caution, the second trip down pit road coming for repairs to the front of his car after he hit debris that knocked a whole in the front fascia. He recovered to finish the second stage in the 10th position.

Johnson fell off the pace on a lap 100 restart, bringing out a caution on lap 101 with a flat left-rear tire. Johnson already was running near the back after a penalty for driving through too many pit stalls during a previous caution.

Keselowski made his way into the top-five in the second stage, but with less than 40 laps remaining in the stage, a loose wheel forced an unscheduled trip to the pits. To compound his problems, like Johnson before him, he drove through too many pit stalls, resulting in a NASCAR penalty.

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With just over 20 laps remaining in stage two, Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Harvick and Kurt Busch made unscheduled green-flag stops, Harvick for a vibration he assumed was caused by a loose wheel and Busch for a flat right-front tire. The yellow flag waved for Corey LaJoie, right after their stops.

"I got a lap down, there, when I had a tire coming apart," Harvick said. "It was vibrating really bad. We came back through the field. It just didn't like up for us, there, at the end."

NOTES: Kyle Busch led 91 of 167 laps and won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway on Friday night. ... Twelve drivers failed to make qualifying attempts Friday as a result of not getting through pre-qualifying inspection in time to do so. Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer and three of four Hendrick Motorsports drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and Kasey Kahne -- were among them. Those 12 drivers started the race in the back on new tires. ... Carl Long returned to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition after an eight-year ban from Cup Series competition that stemmed from an illegal engine. ... Both Team Penske drivers, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola were without their regular crew chiefs for the Kansas Speedway race as they were serving suspensions for rear-end suspension issues discovered during post-race inspections at various race tracks. ... Ryan Blaney's pole was his first-career Cup Series pole. Kyle Busch won last year's GoBowling.com 400. Kevin Harvick won the most recent Cup race at Kansas Speedway last October. Neither driver has won in 2017.

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