Truex was never seriously threatened in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race victory until the final round of green-flag pit stops was completed on Lap 259 of 293.
Truex emerged with his lead intact but Kyle Larson had cut it to about 1.5 seconds. After at first losing ground, Larson started making headway and several times in the final 25 laps cut the deficit to under a second.
At one point while trying to stay with Truex, Larson went three-wide and split the cars of Ryan Newman and Tyler Reddick – a move that could have easily ended in disaster.
“They’re both really aggressive drivers, so I didn’t want to get stuck behind them because I knew if I didn’t clear them then, I would definitely not have an opportunity to get by or get close to Martin,” Larson said.
“I saw a door open up a little bit, and I stuck my nose in there and came out the other side. It was pretty intense, but that’s what I felt like I needed to do at that point to give myself a shot to win.”
Larson said when he came out of the final round of green-flag stops and could see he had made up considerable ground on Truex he needed to tell himself not to get too excited.
“Even the whole last stage I felt like I did a good job for where I was at and who I was battling with to take care of my stuff. But when the leader is in front of you it is tougher to remind yourself,” he said.
“In a way I maybe was too patient at one point. I got to his back bumper in (Turns) 1 and 2 and I could see he was struggling in front of me, and I thought, ‘Well, if I am just patient here and stay
behind him and put some pressure on him, maybe he’ll use his stuff up or get into the wall in (Turn) 3 and 4 because he was running so close to it.
“So, I was just hoping that he would make a mistake.”
It never came.
In the final five laps, Larson’s tires began to wear out and Truex pulled away again, eventually taking the win by 2.571 seconds.
Still, considering Truex won Stage 2 by nearly 15 seconds over Kyle Busch, Larson and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team showed themselves the one able to keep pace with Truex down the stretch.
“We’re one of the top three teams out there, so I’m happy with that. We’ve been really good to start the year and meshing very well as a team,” Larson said.
“Really enjoy working with Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and everybody on the No. 5 car, and I think we’re just going to continue to grow.”
Larson, already locked in the playoffs thanks to his victory at Las Vegas, is now sixth in the series standings, 20 points behind fifth-place Ryan Blaney.