Martin Truex Jr. locked up the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season title Saturday night at Darlington Raceway. (NASCAR photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Martin Truex Jr. clinched the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season championship with a sweep of the first two stages in Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Truex won the second stage — his 17th of the season — under caution after Gray Gaulding blew a tire and spun with three laps remaining before the stage break.

By virtue of his 20 regular season points earned during the first 200 laps, Truex banks the 15 playoff points awarded to the regular season titlist, giving him a total of 52 with one race remaining before the playoffs begin.

The second stage of Sunday night’s race kicked off exactly how the first one ended, with Kyle Larson jumping out to a solid lead over Martin Truex Jr. when the green flag flew on lap 108.

Larson opened up more than a second over the field, but that was erased when Daniel Suarez blew a tire and pounded the wall on lap 125, drawing a caution and sending the field to pit road for tires.

With no major changes among the frontrunners, Larson led the field back to a lap 131 restart and got away early, but was just as quickly stalked again by Truex after 15 laps clicked off in the run.

Truex finally made his move to take the lead away from Larson on lap 149, charging away before a three-car accident collected A.J. Allmendinger, Cody Ware and Matt DiBenedetto six laps later.

Denny Hamlin beat Truex off pit road to take the top spot for the first time ahead of a lap 161 restart, and when the No. 11 Ray Hendrick Special found clean air, it took off. Hamlin grabbed a half-second lead over Truex and used the high lane to maintain momentum and control – but only for so long.

Hamlin finally got hung up passing the slower car of David Ragan, who was running the top lane, allowing Truex to shoot low and reassume the lead in Turns 3 and 4 on lap 179.

It took only four laps for Truex to reopen a second’s lead over the field, and he comfortably cruised out front until th stage-ending caution came out for Gaulding’s misfortune.

Hamlin crossed the caution and green-checkered flags second, ahead of Kevin Harvick, Larson and Kyle Busch.

Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon and Matt Kenseth completed the points-scoring drivers in the top 10 at the second stage break.


About the Writer

Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.

Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman, 24, is the founder and managing editor of 77 Sports Media and a major contributing writer for SPEED SPORT Magazine. He is studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and also serves as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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