CONCORD, N.C. — Highlights of Sunday’s Bank of America 500, the first race of the second round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
WINNER: Martin Truex Jr. notched his career-high sixth victory of the season, dominating the final 100 laps and winning the race off pit road when the final caution flew on Lap 334. Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson made contact with two laps to go, forcing the green-white-checkered finish. Truex qualified for the third round of the playoffs and can credit his No. 78 Toyota pit crew for a nearly flawless day that helped keep him up front despite several restarts in the closing laps.
"It was tough out there today, the car was a handful," Truex said after climbing out of his car at the start-finish line. "Man, just thanks to my guys. We kept digging. The pit crew was flawless. "They got us track position, and we were able to keep it. Just a never give-up attitude with these guys. ... At this time of year you want to click on all cylinders, and we just did everything right."
Truex leads all drivers in wins and added more bonus points to his series-leading total. He also earned a slot in the playoff's third round with the win, the fourth in four races for car manufacturer Toyota. Truex won the opener at Chicagoland Speedway and Kyle Busch won at New Hampshire and Dover.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Hamlin and Jamie McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne and Larson. Suarez and Kahne are the only drivers in that group who are not in the playoffs.
Truex's longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex was not able to attend the race as she continues to battle a recurrence of ovarian cancer. She tweeted after the win: "Well that was tough to watch. But I'm cheering you on from home babe! Chemo Monday, victory lane Sunday love you MTJ"
KYLE BUSCH: Busch got overheated in his race car after a tough day - he hit the wall at least three times and said he would need oxygen after the race. He laid down on the infield grass after climbing from his car on pit road. Medical personnel put ice on his chest and later brought a stretcher. Team owner Joe Gibbs also checked on him. Busch later was taken by ambulance to the infield care center.
DALE JR.: He finished 12th in his final Cup race at the track, which he told SiriusXM ''has been hemorrhaging for a while. I won't miss it." Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he understood why the track chose to put PJ1 - a substance applied to the track surface to make it grippier and improve racing, but he said the effort failed and most drivers were left fighting to find a groove to run in. Earnhardt had to start from the rear after going to a backup car after a Friday practice crash. In his post-race Periscope with fans, he said he had faith the track would improve and the racing quality would get better, noting track general manager and friend Marcus Smith would get things right.
NEWMAN VS. BOWYER: The race’s second caution flew because of contact between Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer exiting Turn 2 on Lap 43. Both cars were damaged, Newman’s more heavily. NASCAR called a competition caution earlier in the race because of Saturday rain and its impact on the track.
STAGE ONE: Kevin Harvick outran Chase Elliott by two seconds to win the first stage (90 laps). Following in the top 10 were: Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson. Harvick led 39 laps in the stage, second to Hamlin’s 40.
McDOWELL SLIDES: The fourth caution of the afternoon appeared on Lap 117 when Michael McDowell lost control of his car and did a long slide across the top of the track in the second turn. He was running 23rd.
KYLE MEETS WALL: While running second on Lap 136, Kyle Busch slid into the wall between Turns 3 and 4, damaging the right rear of his Toyota and causing the race’s fifth caution. He lost a lap in the pits for repairs and later fell two laps back. Busch took a two-race winning streak into Sunday’s race. CMS remains the only active track where Busch has not won.
STAGE TWO: Harvick finished one second in front of Elliott to win the second stage. Also in the top 10 were Kenseth, Truex, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Larson, Johnson, Ryan Blaney and McMurray.
RAGAN, PATRICK CRASH: David Ragan slid across the track and was hit by Danica Patrick on Lap 266, bringing out the race’s seventh caution. Truex led second-place Larson at that point. After the ensuing pit stops, Larson took the lead, with Truex second.
KYLE, AGAIN: A long day for Kyle Busch got longer with 55 laps to go when he spun out, causing the race’s eighth caution. He returned to the track four laps behind the leaders. During the pit stops that followed, the teams of Larson and Johnson had missteps, pushing them out of the top 10 for the restart.
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