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Martin Truex Jr. Loses Cool on Cooldown Lap After Frustrating Final Restart at Richmond

Martin Truex Jr. was seething after losing out on a race that he had dominated Sunday at Richmond Raceway. After he felt he was treated unfairly by his teammate Denny Hamlin, he took out his frustration on Hamlin's back bumper after the checkered flag.


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Heartbreak will make even the calmest men do things completely out of character.

Martin Truex Jr., who led a race-high 228 laps in the 407-lap Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, was seeing red after he lost the race in an overtime finish to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. After the heart-breaking loss, Truex doored Kyle Larson on the cool down lap, who also ran him wide on the restart, and then chased down Hamlin on the track and slammed into the back bumper of his No. 11 car on the cool down lap.

Truex wasn’t just mad that he lost the race lead on pit road under the final caution of the race, which came out with two laps remaining after an incident between Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace. That stung, but Truex was upset with Hamlin’s decisions on the final restart of the race.

The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion felt Hamlin jumped the restart, and then Hamlin ran Truex wide into the first turn after the restart.

“It’s unfortunate. You know, unfortunately, this has happened here a few times over the years. We were in a great spot, and had a great Auto-Owners Camry all night long. The guys did a real good job. Just got beat out of the pits. I don’t know. He jumped the start, and then just used me up in Turn 1. It definitely sucks, but good solid day and another car capable of winning.”

The combination of the restart, and the move into Turn 1, caused Truex to lose momentum, and after Truex was run wide by Kyle Larson in the next set of turns, Truex faded to a fourth-place finish.

While Truex felt that Hamlin jumped the final restart of the race, Hamlin rejected that thought after the race, but he did admit that he cut it very close. But he had to strategically as he saw the cars behind him surging forward.

“Yeah, I mean, I went right at it, for sure,” Hamlin explained. “I did that because I saw those guys rolling to me. The 22 was laying back. The 19 was rolling a couple miles an hour quicker than I was. I wasn’t going to let them have an advantage that my team earned on pit road. Certainly made sure I went to my nose, got there. But I took off right away. Still, we were side by side down the water into turn one.”

When you look at the replay of the restart, it definitely looks like Hamlin accelerated before crossing the GEICO restart zone white line, which by rule would be a black flag.

However, NASCAR’s Elton Sawyer said, "We reviewed that. We looked at it. Obviously, the 11 was the control vehicle. It was awful close, but we deemed it to be a good restart."

Had Hamlin been penalized, Truex wouldn’t have won anyway, as he finished in fourth. A penalty for Hamlin would have simply taken a win away from the Joe Gibbs Racing team.

Despite leading over half of the race, True was angry for a good chunk of the race. Prior to the situation with Hamlin, Truex was frustrated for much of the final run of the event with lapped traffic and how they were racing him.

Truex was on older tires than Hamlin, who was closing in fast from behind, and the lapped traffic he encountered was aiding Hamlin’s attempt to close the gap, and it was leading to a full-blown meltdown by Truex on the radio. However, Hamlin eventually stalled out, and it looked like Truex had the win in the bag.

Until the over-time inducing caution.

Joe Gibbs Racing team owner Coach Joe Gibbs was asked if Truex would face any reprecussions internally for running into Hamlin’s car after the race, and Gibbs was very understanding of Truex’s frustrations. He was equally happy for Hamlin and sad for Truex with how the night unfolded.

“You’re happy for Denny certainly and everything that happened tonight for him, but then you see Martin, how hard he fought for this, how much he wanted it,” Gibbs explained. “That’s part of our sport. It’s really hard. You see these guys when it gets down towards the end of these races, they’re going for it because they are really hard to win. You can’t have that happen, particularly if you got good cars, good drivers. They all want it. They want it for their sponsor. They want it for themselves, their career.

“You really feel for them when they go through a night like Martin went through this night. You just feel for them.”

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing

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