MARTINSVILLE, Va. — After spending the majority of his career learning how to race on short tracks, Martin Truex has now become an instructor.
Truex put on a short-track clinic, leading 464 of 500 laps in his win today at Martinsville, a track he was lost on for so many years.
With the lights illuminating the final laps, the long day ended with a night parade of frustrated drivers and then a fight between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
After a boring day of racing, it ended in typical Martinsville fashion, with fans cheering the winner and then erupting when the drivers and the crews came together behind the wall for an old-school NASCAR scrum.
That was typical, too, mostly pushing and shoving and falling and threatening. While Truex stood in Victory Lane to receive his first grandfather clock, Logano and Hamlin were being summoned to the NASCAR hauler.
Elsewhere, drivers promised revenge over the final three races. Meanwhile, Truex was just trying to get through post-race interviews.
“I’ve worked so hard,” Truex said. “I used to just be terrible here.”
Then he was interrupted by a roar from the crowd. Even then, Truex was cool.
"I think there's a fight," he said on the speedway loudspeaker.
He led all but 30 laps early, and when he passed Kyle Larson on lap 260, he just drove away.
“That was an unbelievable race car,” he said. “I feel like I’m still dreaming.”
Coming into this season, Truex was known as the best driver on the 1½-mile that litter the NASCAR schedule. Now he’s won three short-track races, all in Virginia.
“I do love Virginia,” he said.
The dominating run by Truex and the fight afterward masked the reality of what happened. Suffice to say, NASCAR’s latest aero package has rendered racing moot at Martinsville.
Brad Keselowski led 446 laps in the spring race here.
On a half-mile track known for rough, close racing, that’s a problem. There were two lead changes, once when Hamlin’s pit crew cost him the lead, and again when Truex passed Larson.
And that was it.
The rest of the day was like watching race traffic on U.S. 220 as most drivers carefully made their way through the first stage of the final three elimination races before Homestead and a couple of drivers just messed with Kyle Busch, which sometimes is a sport in and of itself.
Hamlin was involved in that, too. Busch’s teammate pushed him out of the way early in the race, which pretty much ruined Busch’s day, or at least his attitude. He’s oddly irritated by watching his teammates win.
And much of the sport is irritated by Busch.
One of those is Aric Almirola, who promised vengeance after he and Busch collided and caused a big wreck that ended Almirola’s day early.
“We’ve got three more weeks, and I’m going to make it hell for him,” Almirola said.
That’s sort of the same thing Hamlin and Logano said.
“I was a little frustrated and wanted to talk to him,” Logano said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have shoved him. That kind of escalated it.”
Truex watched the entire race from his rear-view mirror and then watched the fight from Victory Lane. This is his sport now. While the rest of the drivers deal with the pressure of the playoffs and simmering feuds between teams and teammates, Truex will be waiting in Homestead for three drivers to join him.
For one long day, they were all chasing him. Once a struggling short-track student, he’s now the teacher.
Mr. Truex came to Martinsville and took the sport to the woodshed.