Martin Truex Jr. redeemed himself in the desert on Sunday.
After kissing the wall in the opening laps of the race, the driver fought back over the final two stages to score his first victory at Phoenix Raceway.
Truex took the lead from Joey Logano on the final restart to lead the final 25 laps en route to his 28th-career win.
“I hit the fence off of turn two,” Truex said. “Our car was super tight to start off the race. It wasn’t any good at all. I can’t believe I’m standing here right now. What an effort by my guys on the team. It’s just unreal. To hit the fence, to go to the back, to fix it, to make some huge adjustments and for us to be able to run as good as we did at the end there, I’m speechless.
“This has been a tough track for us. We struggled here in the fall. We came here with a whole new mindset, a whole new focus on trying to figure this place out and I’ll be dammed if we didn’t do it. Hopefully, we can keep tuning on this thing and come back for the Final Four in November.”
Logano finished second followed by Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 10.
Larson and Byron started from the rear of the field after failing inspection multiple times. Elliott, too, for unapproved adjustments. Larson had worked his way up to 14th by the Lap 30 competition caution but was busted for speeding during pit stops and was forced to restart from the rear of the field in 32nd.
Keselowski was the first car off pit road on Lap 33. He held the point for seven laps until Blaney rolled by him. Two laps later, Alex Bowman went into the spin cycle after Ross Chastain checked up in Turn 2 to trigger the second caution. Upon contact, Austin Dillon plowed into the rear of the No. 48 Chevrolet. Larson recovered to 10th by Lap 66.
Blaney won Stage 1—his first stage victory of the season—and led the field to pit road on Lap 79. When The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team executed an extended stop and Truex restarted 28th. Logano led the field to green.
The stage was slowed by the fourth caution—after Cody Ware collided with Anthony Alfredo in Turn 2 on Lap 90. Logano relinquished the lead long enough to pit but cycled back to the point on Lap 156 and held serve to win Stage 2. Larson, who suffered a second speeding penalty during green-flag stops on Lap 143, made up 13 spots over 47 laps to finish 13th in the second stage.
Logano maintained the point for the final stage and led 24 laps before Truex flexed his muscles to the front for the first time on Lap 224. He pitted with a five-second lead 30 laps later and regained his position after service on Lap 255. Eight laps later, Tyler Reddick slapped the Turn 2 wall to ignite Caution 6.
Bubba Wallace remained on the track and assumed the lead. Logano was first off of pit road and lined up second for the Lap 269 restart followed by Keselowski, Truex and Larson. Logano grabbed the lead on the restart but was quickly passed by Keselowski. The Penske teammates traded the point over the next 15 laps before an incident occurred between Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain on Lap 283—slowed the race for the seventh and final time.
Logano chose the bottom lane for the restart but Truex was able to use the VHT blew by the No. 22 Ford out of Turn 1.
“I was surprised he was able to hang with me on that start,” Logano said. “I felt like he had a good start, too, but I had a good one on the bottom. I short-cutted it in the dogleg, and I thought, 'Boy I'm going to have him cleared.' Then, going into the corner we were still door-to-door, and when you're door-to-door, the outside car has control of you. I'm pretty sure that, even if I beat him on that start, he was probably going to hound me and get by me. They had the best car.”
Truex led the final 25 laps and held off Logano by 1.698-seconds at the line.
“Just an awesome job by everybody —James (Small, crew chief), Blake (Harris, car chief) fixing it--all the pit crew guys. Just really solid. I thought at the beginning of the race we were going to run 15th or so. Man, I can't really believe it. I'm kind of speechless. This feels pretty amazing.
“Phoenix has been a pretty tough one for us. But to come here and win this--I wish it was November--but hopefully we can come back here in November and have a shot at being in the final four. Man, just so proud and so thankful for everybody at JGR, everybody that makes this possible.”
Truex’s victory ended a 29-race winless streak—and a 30-race winless streak at Phoenix. The victory also qualifies the 40-year-old driver for his seventh-consecutive Playoff berth.
“Just to have the speed that we had and to be good on the long run at the end, and to be able to take the lead on the restart against a couple guys who are good here each and every time. Look at the 22 (Logano), the 2 (Keselowski) and the 11 (Hamlin), those guys are always good, and we’ve been searching. I’m really proud of James and ‘Jazzy’ (Jeff Curtis, engineer) who came up with the setup here. Like I said, we will go home and figure out to be better, and tweak on it. This is just unbelievable.
“Hopefully we can put together a good season and win some races. One win last year was disappointing for us. We were close a lot of times, but we want to win bunches and we want to go for another championship, so hopefully this will be good momentum for us right here.”