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Martin Truex Jr. captures first career NASCAR victory at Dover

Jun 5, 2007 - 1:41 AM DOVER, Delaware (Ticker) -- Martin Truex Jr. finally had a reason to smile on what turned out to be a bittersweet day for NASCAR.

Truex made a late charge Monday afternoon to win the Nextel Cup Series Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway.

It was the first career victory for Truex, who ended a string of 57 consecutive races without a trip to Victory Lane.

"What an unbelievable race car we had today," Truex said. "It couldn't come at a better race track for us."

But the win was overshadowed by the news that former NASCAR president and chairman Bill France Jr., who helped guide the sport into the national consciousness, died Monday afternoon at his home in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was 74.

"It's a profound loss for the sport," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "His Dad really started NASCAR, but he's the one probably most responsible for the state of our sport today."

The victory also came during what has been a tumultuous period for Truex's team, Dale Earnhardt Inc., which took a colossal hit early last month when Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his intention to leave the team founded by his late father following the season.

"I don't know what to say," Truex said. "I've just got to thank (my team) and everyone at DEI for their hard work. In times of change and times when people don't know really what's going on and they need some leadership and direction, I'm just really happy to be the one here in Victory Lane."

Truex led six times for a total of 216 laps of the 400-lap race. He trailed only Ryan Newman when the 400-lap race restarted on lap 343 following a five-lap caution. Truex took the lead for good five laps later, racing his Chevrolet Impala past Newman's Dodge Avenger.

"Congratulations to Martin, he did an excellent job, and he's an excellent driver," Newman said. "He definitely likes this racetrack, and that's unfortunate for me. His entire team did a great job, and my entire team did a great job. Just to be up front all day and lead a lot of laps is a great feeling."

After surviving another caution and restart on lap 362, Truex began pulling away down the stretch and actually widened his lead to over six seconds by lap 397.

Newman finished second from the pole, followed by Carl Edwards in a Ford Fusion and Denny Hamlin in a Chevrolet. Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five in a Ford.

"I had a really good time racing today. I feel like we're on our way back to meeting our potential with this team," Edwards said. "Had a chance to win the last three races, including this one. We've had cars good enough. I'm just really excited about today's finish.

"Congratulations and my hat's off to Martin Truex. There's nothing like your first Nextel Cup Series win, so that's pretty awesome."

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