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Martin Truex Jr. was in command down the stretch of Easter Sunday's Toyota Owners 400. The NASCAR Cup Series point leader was mere seconds away from his first victory of 2024.

How quickly momentum can change in this sport.

An unexpected caution left Truex frustrated, losing the lead on pit road and then his cool as teammate Denny Hamlin stole a victory right out from under his nose.

"It's unfortunate," Truex mustered after faltering to fourth on the final restart. "Unfortunately, this has happened here a few times over the years."

The "this" is defeat snatched out of the jaws of victory, losses piled up at a track where Truex has led 1,587 career laps, the most for him at any NASCAR track. But three wins here have been overshadowed by some painful near misses, including a crash in the 2017 regular-season finale after Truex led nearly half the race.

The circumstances then were eerily similar to Sunday: a caution late forcing overtime with Truex cruising out front, then losing the lead on pit road and unable to make up ground on the restart. He ended that race with his car wrecked into the frontstretch wall, courtesy of Hamlin's front bumper as Kyle Larson cruised to victory.

Turns out good race car drivers never forget. That race had to be intact in Truex's memory bank as the final laps of Sunday unfolded. Hamlin's team grabbed the lead under caution, a 9.0-second stop handing him the lead from third place.

"I knew about halfway through the stop when they dropped the jack on the right side in about three-and-half seconds," Hamlin said. "I thought, 'Oh, boy, this is going to be a fast one. I knew it was going to be really close.'"

Hamlin took the advantage and then maximized it on the ensuing restart. Either that … or he went early, escaping the wrath of NASCAR officials. You watch and make the call.

His victory slipping away, Truex dropped second place to Joey Logano and spent the final moments banging into none other than Larson, who jumped to third after causing the yellow in the first place with a spin off Bubba Wallace's front bumper. Their contact continued well after the checkered flag as Larson became the target of Truex's night turned nightmare.

"I think he was just mad," Larson explained. "I think he is more mad at Denny, but I was the closest one to take his anger out on … Martin is probably the most respected guy in the garage area. So, I was surprised when he turned left on me down the backstretch after the checkered.

"It's all good. I hope he doesn't have any hard feelings to me because I definitely don't towards him."

Instead, it's the bad blood between Truex and Hamlin, teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, that you wonder about now leaving Richmond.

"These things are so hard to win," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "So, when you have an experience the way Martin did tonight, to race that hard … then to have a caution, we go that far, with three laps to go, it was devastating.

"You're happy for Denny certainly and everything that happened tonight for him, but then you see Martin, how hard he fought for this, how much he wanted it. That's part of our sport. It's really hard. … You really feel for them when they go through a night like Martin went through."

Traffic Report

Green: Joey Logano. Runner-up at a racetrack was a welcome sight for the two-time champion, posting his first top-five result after starting the year with no finish better than ninth. Can his run jumpstart a faltering season for Ford and Team Penske, still winless as the calendar hits April?

Yellow: Bubba Wallace. Wallace had the first short track top-five finish of his career in hand before an ill-timed bump on Larson changed everything. The two kissed and made up after the race, but you can't say the same about Wallace and the much-maligned No. 23 pit crew. Yet another problem, this time on the left side during an overtime pit stop, turned Wallace's bump into a costly 13th-place result while Larson jumped up to third.

Red: Richard Childress Racing. What is going on over at RCR? Kyle Busch caused a questionable caution for wall contact, running 20th for his fourth finish of 20th or worse in the last five races. Teammate Austin Dillon was worse, 24th and berating his crew on the radio for indecisiveness and poor setups. Dillon sits some 73 points out of playoff position already and remains without a top-15 finish thus far in 2024.

Speeding Ticket: Richmond. It was a rough one for NASCAR, a second straight week of below average racing after a promising start on wet weather tires.

30 laps on a drying track proved the drivers could run on damp ovals in the future. But there were more passes in that initial spurt of the race than it felt like there were the rest of the night.

Don't believe me? Just ask winner Hamlin.

"We were all just kind of running in a train there 1-2-3," he said. "It was really hard to pass, for sure. We were all kind of running the same speed. As soon as you get your tires hot, you just can't go anywhere."

That and a sparse crowd puts NASCAR in a pickle. Richmond is a track they own, yet the racing there has been less than desirable for most of the past decade. Is it time to renovate, reduce its dates (Richmond currently has two) or do something radical to spice things up?


A light race on contact did have one notable incident between rookie Josh Berry and Daniel Suarez on Lap 65.

While the No. 99 car suffered minor damage, the loss of track position left him fighting all night to get to 22nd place. Suarez was frustrated and sought Berry out on pit road after the event.

"It was a little difference of opinion," the rookie Berry claimed.

"We're good," Suarez claimed after the conversation. "But tomorrow, if that happens the other way around, there won't be any conversation because he's going to be expecting it [getting spun out]."