Martin Truex Jr. turned in 600 miles of pure dominance to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday.
He led 392 of the 400 laps and held off every challenge on his way to his fourth career win and first victory since June 2015, per Jeff Gluck of USA Today.
NASCAR called the performance at the season's longest race "astonishing":
It was a fitting win for the No. 78 car because he experienced heartbreak at the same race last year. RJ Kraft of NASCAR.com noted that "he led a race-high 131 laps in last year's race but ended up on the wrong side of a fuel-mileage affair en route to a fifth-place finish."
Here is a look at Truex and the rest of the top finishers in Sunday's race, per NASCAR.com:
|Top Finishers at Coca-Cola 600|
|Place||Driver||Time Behind Leader (Seconds)||Laps Led|
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||--||392|
The victor made a move in the standings with the win, per NASCAR.com:
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||381|
Truex dictated the initial portion of the race from the pole and led each of the first 50 laps. However, Gluck stressed that it was too early to pencil the leader in for a victory, given some of his struggles with closing out races earlier in the season:
Truex maintained the lead through the first 77 laps but had to briefly relinquish his control to go into the pit. He quickly gained it back when he returned to the track and continued to set the pace, but the race went under caution at Lap 115 as Brian Scott spun out. To the other cars' credit, they all avoided a disastrous crash, via NASCAR:
Jimmie Johnson closed the gap to less than a second by the 200-mile mark, and Gluck illustrated that a critical restart proved to be the difference:
Truex held Johnson, Joey Logano and the rest of the field off past the halfway mark.
"Truex has now led more than 200 laps," Jeff Owens of Sporting News observed. "This might be the most dominant he's ever been. Can't let this one get away."
However, Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press was wondering why there was little action through the first 300 miles. "How come the All-Star racing was, shall we say, more spirited than this tonight?" she asked.
Almost on cue, Jeffrey Earnhardt went into the wall on Lap 203 and caused a caution, via NASCAR:
Johnson and Logano battled for second place, but nobody passed Truex as the cars reached Lap 250. Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams was impressed by the performance:
NASCAR provided a look at the critical moment:
Truex held on to his lead heading into the final 85 laps, and there were only 16 cars remaining on the lead lap. The race was so long that the trailers were falling well behind, and the number of cars on the lead lap fell to 15 when Truex passed Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
However, Stenhouse put up a fight, which briefly impacted the race for the title, per Gluck:
Despite the break for Johnson, Truex remained in control and set a race record for the most laps led. Chris Myers of Fox noted Truex surpassed the mark Jim Paschal set in 1967 after leading 335 of 400 laps.
Johnson and Kevin Harvick were well within striking distance with fewer than 50 laps remaining, but the leader continued to push ahead. Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com pointed out there was "no mention of fuel concerns on [Truex's] radio" with fewer than 25 laps left, so the No. 78 car was clear to the finish.
It seemed like the race was setting up for a dramatic ending with one racer dominating the field and a couple hanging tight, but Truex finished the record performance without much of a late challenge.
He extended his advantage to more than 2.5 seconds and cruised in the final lap to the victory.
The next two races on the Sprint Cup schedule are the Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 on Sunday, June 5, and the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 12.
Truex should have some momentum after breaking through with his fourth career win, and there are plenty of races remaining on the calendar to make a move. Myers noted the first three wins for Truex came in June, so he is entering his best month historically on a high note.
He was in ninth place in the Sprint Cup standings coming into Sunday's race, but he looked ready to make a charge as the calendar flips to June with his historic performance in Charlotte.
Truex had some fun when asked about Johnson's ability to pull ahead for a bit during a restart, per Gluck: "I had to give him something for being a good sport. No, I'm just kidding."
Truex also discussed the victory, per Nate Ryan of NBC Sports: "It meant a lot to me. Just kind of sinking in now, you know? We won the 600, so just really proud of my team. Everybody that made this possible and believed in me and gave me this opportunity. Man, my guys are just … they’re something special, so just got to thank all them."
Harvick finished in second place and seemed fairly pleased, per Ryan: "We ran 10th all day. I’m just really, really happy with when you’re able to take a 10th‑place car at best, for the first 450 miles and make adjustments on it, those are huge gains. I was just happy we were competitive at the end of the race. We didn’t have the fastest car, obviously.”
There is nothing wrong with a second-place finish considering how Truex raced on Sunday. He was unstoppable for 600 miles and didn't give the rest of the field much chance.