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Martin Truex Jr. takes checkered flag in NASCAR Instacart 500 at Phoenix Raceway

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Martin Truex Jr. pulled away in the final laps Sunday at Phoenix Raceway for his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season and 28th overall.

Truex beat the four championship finalists from last year. He had failed to advance into the season-ending finale for the first time in four years and could only watch as Chase Elliott beat Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski for the title at the desert oval. All four tailed Truex across the finish line.

Phoenix Raceway will again host the championship race in November.

“To come here and win this, I wish it was November,” Truex said. “Hopefully, we can come back in November and have a shot at the championship.”

The 40-year-old Truex struggled earlier this year, finishing 25th at Daytona. But he’s raced much better in recent weeks, finishing third at Homestead and sixth at Las Vegas last week.

He was dominant during the final half Sunday and became the first driver from last year’s 16-car playoff field to qualify for the postseason. Truex blew past Logano on the final restart with 25 laps remaining and was never challenged again.

Martin Truex Jr. (19) and Joey Logano (22) battle for position at Phoenix Raceway.

It was a good day for Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing, which had the winner in Truex and Hamlin in the third spot.

Kyle Larson – who raced to his first victory with Hendrick Motorsports last week in Las Vegas – had to start at the back of the field after a pre-race inspection failure. He worked his way back to the front and briefly led about halfway through the race.

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