NASCAR at Kentucky 2017 Results: Martin Truex Jr. Takes 3rd Victory of Season

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2017

SPARTA, KY - JULY 08: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on July 8, 2017 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Martin Truex Jr. led 152 laps en route to winning the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night for his third victory of the season.

Truex held off Kyle Larson in overtime, but Larson registered his sixth second-place finish of 2017 despite starting in the 40th position.

Here is a look at how the top 10 shook out in Sparta, Kentucky, with full results available at NASCAR.com:

1. Martin Truex Jr.

2. Kyle Larson

3. Chase Elliott

4. Denny Hamlin

5. Kyle Busch

6. Erik Jones

7. Jamie McMurray

8. Joey Logano

9. Kevin Harvick

10. Ryan Blaney

For Truex, it marked the second time this season he swept all three stages in a single race, and the win tied him with Jimmie Johnson for the most Cup Series victories during the current campaign.

While Truex is technically first in the playoff standings due to his three wins, he still trails Larson by a single point in the overall points standings:

1. Kyle Larson: Leader (two wins)

2. Martin Truex Jr.: -1 (three wins)

3. Kyle Busch: -101 (zero wins)

4. Kevin Harvick: -111 (one win)

5. Chase Elliott: -150 (zero wins)

6. Jamie McMurray: -165 (zero wins)

7. Denny Hamlin: -172 (zero wins)

8. Brad Keselowski: -174 (two wins)

9. Jimmie Johnson: -191 (three wins)

10. Clint Bowyer: -215 (zero wins)

11. Matt Kenseth: -232 (zero wins)

12. Joey Logano: -239 (one win)

13. Ryan Blaney: -248 (one win)

14. Erik Jones: -284 (zero wins)

15. Kurt Busch: -291 (one win)

16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: -292 (two wins)

17. Ryan Newman: -296 (one win)

18. Daniel Suarez: -337 (zero wins)

19. Trevor Bayne: -358 (zero wins)

20. Austin Dillon: -369 (one win)

A small handful of drivers dominated Saturday's race, and that was apparent throughout the opening stage, with Kyle Busch and Truex outclassing the field.

After winning the Xfinity Series race earlier in the day, Busch led 66 of the first 67 laps before Truex managed to pass him on Lap 68.

That was a key move for Truex, who went on to win the stage, marking his 12th stage win of the season and continuing his banking of playoff points.

While the first stage went off without incident, the second stage was riddled with significant crashes, including one that involved Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, as seen in this video courtesy of NASCAR on NBC:

Bowyer managed to return to the track, but both Keselowski and Johnson were knocked out of the race, eliminating two top contenders.

During an interview after the fact, Keselowski took some responsibility for the wreck:

Keselowski also criticized the makeup of the cars and expressed his frustration over the situation on Twitter while the race was still going:

Shortly after the ensuing restart, another crash brought out a yellow flag, and it resulted in both Kasey Kahne and Trevor Bayne seeing their night end early:

That continued a disappointing recent trend for Kahne, as the Hendrick Motorsports driver has failed to finish five of his past seven races.

Kahne explained what happened after a return was ruled out:

Amid the chaos, Busch and Truex traded the lead on a few more occasions before Truex once again surged to the front in the waning laps of the stage.

He guided the No. 78 car to another stage win, which put him in position to go for a rare three-stage sweep at Kentucky.

Busch never managed to get the lead back after that, but he did end the race with 112 laps led.

Truex was virtually untouchable for much of the third stage. He led the entire way with only a couple of brief stints featuring others out front.

A Truex victory appeared to be a foregone conclusion in the latter stages, but Kurt Busch made things interesting on Lap 265 when his car began to smoke and left fluid on the track:

That brought out a caution and set the stage for one more restart, offering a few drivers an opportunity to steal the win from Truex in overtime.

After a good restart by Truex, Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez crashed to bring out the final yellow flag of the race, however, which clinched the win for No. 78.

Truex expressed after the race that he wasn't sure if he could win on old tires after opting to stay on the track during the penultimate caution:

The veteran was able to stay in front long enough for issues to arise behind him, though, and he didn't need to drive out the entirety of the race.

Truex is undoubtedly in the midst of his best season, and the fact that he continues to rack up playoff points means he will have a bit of a cushion on his side when the Chase starts.

He is two years removed from being one of the final cars in the running for the championship, and although a lot can happen in the playoffs, his current form suggests he is a top contender to win it all in 2017.