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Martin Truex Jr. dominates at Darlington for 3rd NASCAR Cup win of season

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway on Sunday in Darlington, S.C. (AP photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Martin Truex Jr. got nervous in a hurry near the end of his dominating drive at Darlington Raceway.

Barely pushed much of the race, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver suddenly saw Kyle Larson catching up in the closing laps.

Truex, though, called on his steady demeanor and track focus to pull away for his third NASCAR Cup Series victory this season.

Not that it was easy.

When Truex noticed Larson right behind him with inside of 30 laps left, he thought, “Oh, man, he’s right behind me.

Martin Truex Jr. gives a thumbs-up as he celebrates with a fan after winning a NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., on April 11. (AP file photo)

“You’re heart rate goes up,” he continued, “You’re anxiety goes up.”

Very quickly, Truex was back to his steady, powerhouse driving at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”

“Hopefully, we can keep this rolling,” Truex said.

Truex’s owner, Joe Gibbs, told him after that Larson gave the three-time Super Bowl winning coach a scare. “Yeah, he scared me, too,” Truex told him.

The victory gave Truex some payback at Darlington from the last time here last September, when he led 196 laps, yet finished 22nd after tangling for the lead late with Chase Elliott.

This time, Truex made sure he had no issues by running out front — often holding a 10-second lead on the field — to win for the second time at this track.

Truex led 248 of the 293 laps for his 30th career victory in NASCAR’s top series. He’s the only driver with multiple wins over the year’s first 12 races.

“It’s fun when you’re out front,” Truex said. “You’re always just mindful on staying focused on what you’re doing.”

No one was more focused at Darlington than Truex.

He took control midway through the first of three stages, moving in front on a restart and settling in for a long ride up front. Truex led the final 21 laps to take the first stage, then the last 36 as he collected the second stage win by some 14 seconds over his JGR teammate Kyle Busch.

Truex broke out when racing resumed for the final stage and easily managed a couple of rounds of green-flag pits stops to stay ahead.

Larson was second with Truex’s teammate, Kyle Busch, third. William Byron was fourth and Denny Hamlin, who came in as the NASCAR points’ leader, was fifth.

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