Of all the places for Ryan Truex to absolutely turn in a career day, the 31-year-old led a dominating 124 of the 200 laps at his hometown Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway. He swept both stage wins and ultimately took the checkered flag an impressive 4.8-seconds ahead of the field to claim his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in Saturday’s A-GAME 200.
It was such a big day for the 31-year-old who has raced in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series – primarily part-time – for nine seasons and is scheduled to only make a handful of starts in 2023. Yet he parlayed this part-time opportunity driving the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into a hugely sentimental victory at a special place – one the Mayetta, N.J. native has always claimed as his “home track.’’
Just before steering his Toyota into Dover’s Victory Lane, he stopped and was greeted by his older brother, NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. – the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, who similarly earned his first victory in that series at Dover back in 2007.
“I’m just so thankful, all these fans, my team, they really stuck behind me,” said a smiling and emotional Truex, who becomes the 13th different NASCAR Xfinity Series driver to claim his first win at Dover.
“Most people didn’t believe in me, and I still did - my girlfriend, my family, my parents, my brother did. I’m just so thankful to be here.
“I felt like with 20 to go, I was just waiting for something to happen,’’ he continued, ‘just praying, please God keep everything straight and let’s get to the end of this. What a car, what an amazing Toyota Supra. I’m speechless.
“I thought I’d be more emotional right now, but when I crossed the flag, I couldn’t even talk on the radio and I’m not an emotional guy. This is for everyone that doubted me.”
JR Motorsports driver and defending race winner Josh Berry finished second to Truex, securing an impressive record at Dover as well. He’s finished either first or second in all three of his Xfinity Series starts at The Monster Mile.
“We made some good adjustments in the second half of the race, the pit crew executed well the last couple stops and had a good green flag cycle and got up to second but the 19 (Truex) was just too far out and it seemed like he was the best car all day,’’ Berry said, adding, “It’s a fun day, I love this racetrack. Hate we didn’t get the win, but it was a great rebound and great day for us.’’
Berry’s JRM teammate, Justin Allgaier, was third followed by Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill and Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates John Hunter Nemechek and Sammy Smith. The third place showing for Hill, who led 18 laps, keeps the 2023 three-race winner atop the championship standings by four-points over Nemechek.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer finished sixth – good enough to earn the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash incentive award for the second straight week: the final installment of the bonus for 2023. He also got the big money from series sponsor Xfinity at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last week.
JR Motorsports drivers Brandon Jones and Sam Mayer were eighth and ninth with 2021 series champion Daniel Hemric rounding out the Top-10 on Saturday.
Richard Childress Racing driver Sheldon Creed, whose 41 laps out front were second only to Truex, finished 11th; an impressive outcome considering he spun and brought out a caution flag earlier in the race.
The afternoon, however, unquestionable belonged to Truex, who made his Xfinity Series debut as an 18-year-old driving for Michael Waltrip in 2010 and has since made 73 assorted starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as well.
And now he is a bona fide winner in one of NASCAR’s headline series.
“I belong here, and I just proved that,’’ said Truex, whose 124 laps out front Saturday were more than his previous career total (67) in 88 starts.
“I’ve known it for a while and people around me have known it for a while. And now everyone in this garage area knows it. My goal is to drive a race car fulltime next year and hopefully we can make it happen.’’
The Xfinity Series returns to action on May 13 in the Shriner’s Children 200 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).