Martin Truex Jr. Dominates At The Monster Mile To Earn Second Chase Victoryby Camille Jones October 2, 2016 0 comments
DOVER, Del. – Martin Truex, Jr. lapped all but six cars on his way to his fourth victory of the season in Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Truex, Jr., driver of the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, started second and led 187 laps in Sunday afternoon’s 400-lap race. Throughout the Round of 16, Truex Jr. won two out of the three races. He’ll be the No. 1 seed when the Round of 12 kicks off at Charlotte Motor Speedway next weekend.
“We are here to get it done and golly I’m telling you just the best bunch of guys you could ever ask for,” Truex Jr. said. “It’s just amazing to drive their race cars and do what we were able to do. I’m just ecstatic. So many people to thank again. I mean, this is just unbelievable. Especially here I love this race track. It’s been considered a home track for me for a long time. It’s been since ’07 since I won here.”
During the first 188 laps of the race, Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch traded the lead back and forth. After leading 102 laps, Busch claimed the second place finishing position. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s Core Toyota scored his 19th top-10 of the season. He successfully advances to the Round of 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with the runner-up finish.
“We’re not bad,” Busch said. “I mean, obviously our cars are really fast, we just haven’t been able to find all of it that the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) had so far. Those guys are doing a phenomenal job, but can’t say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD (Toyota Racing Development). This M&M’s Camry today was really, really good and class of my field, my zip code, my area code. But, we just kept working on it all day long. We had loose, tight, both and it was just better to be on the looser side and just try to maintain the rear tires and keep them underneath you for the long haul and see what you could get.”
Following the battle upfront between Truex Jr. and Busch, Jimmie Johnson was able to take over the on lap 189. He was out in front of the field for 89 laps before receiving a penalty on pit road for having too many crew members over the wall. On lap 282, Johnson, the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet served his pass through penalty under green flag conditions. He went on to finish seventh.
“Well I think today was a different set of circumstances on pit road,” Johnson said. “It was certainly, I think Chad (Knaus, crew chief) still questions exactly what happened, but when I was coming into my pit box the No. 18 and the No. 43 (Aric Almirola) were just leaving theirs and they were directly behind my box. I had to slam on the brakes and get turned and get underneath those guys to come in and I was pretty close to my box so I assume that just threw the rhythm off the pit stop and somebody came off the wall early. Certainly a mistake, but it’s not one that I’ve ever had happen on the No. 48 team. Thankfully, we had a strong car that we were only a lap down and still ended up seventh.”
Truex, Jr. led the way for most of last half of the event before securing his victory over Busch and rookie Chase Elliott, driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Mountain Dew Chevrolet. Elliott also secures his spot in the second round of the Chase after finishing third in Sunday’s race. In two career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the Monster Mile, Elliott has finished in the top-10 both times.
“We’ve been working on our car throughout the weekend and I feel like we got it the best we had had it there two runs before the end, which I guess was a good time to try to get it with that long green flag run things kind of worked out for us to get a couple of extra spots that would have been hard to get otherwise,” Elliott said. “I’m proud of the effort. Really really cool to move on this weekend, I’m proud of that like I said, this group has been doing a really good job. I’m proud of all these guys and we are excited to get on to Charlotte.”
Rounding out the top-five was pole sitter Brad Keselowski in fourth and Matt Kenseth in the fifth position. Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon completed the top-10.
Over the course of the 400-lap race, there were four cautions for a total of 22 laps.
The most notable caution came out on lap 35, when the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick, suffered a mechanical failure, bringing out the caution. Harvick was able to return to the race, where he eventually finished 37th. Due to winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend, Harvick will advance to the next Round of 12.
The complete list of drivers advancing to the Round of 12 include: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon.
Drivers not advancing to the Round of 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Chris Buescher.
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Larson and McMurray, both suffered mechanical failures in the Citizen Soldier 400. Larson’s No. 42 Target Chevrolet experienced electrical issues early in the race, followed by a pit penalty for having too many crew members over the wall. On lap 183, Larson made hard contact with the wall and finished 25th.
“There wasn’t much we could do,” Larson said. “I cut the right front tire down and got in the wall and still had good speed in the race car after that but it just didn’t work out. Our team has come a long way this season from where we started the year. We were pretty awful at the start of the season but then got a win at Michigan to lock ourselves in the Chase. That was good. I know we have the speed to have made it past a couple of rounds but it’s my typical luck I guess, where it just doesn’t work out.”
McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Credit One Chevrolet, reported issues before his engine failed, bringing out the caution on lap 194. McMurray finished the race in the 40th position.
“It vibrated earlier in the race and it went away,” McMurray said. “And it’s weird because engine issues usually don’t go away. It felt like it had power and then I don’t know about 40 laps before it finally blew up, it just started vibrating real bad. They (the team) said what broke, but I couldn’t hear them over all the cars on the track. I’m not sure. Very unfortunate. It is just the way it goes.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Nature’s Bakery Brownie/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, battled into the top-15, fighting for each positionhe could to try to advance, but ultimately came up short with a 13th place finish. In his final season racing fulltime in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the three-time champion will not have a chance to win a fourth title before retiring.
“I’m pretty excited about our day,” Stewart said. “We were much better than we were yesterday. Really proud of our team. We kept making it better all day. That is good as we had.”
Chris Buescher, who secured his spot in the Chase after taking his No. 34 CSX-Play it Safe Ford to Victory Lane in a rain-shortened event at Pocono Raceway, was eliminated from the Chase after failing to collect enough points over the first round. Buescher needed to win on Sunday to secure a spot but was forced to settle for a 23rd-place finish.
“Now we go back to racing the same way we did this weekend,” Buescher said. “Nothing really changes. We’ve got the opportunity to test a little bit more and we still have the opportunity to take chances for the rest of the season, but I’m really proud of the guys for all the work this year. To even be in the Chase was a really big deal for Front Row Motorsports and this 34 team. My hat’s off to everybody who has worked so hard this season.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to competition on Saturday, October 8, for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The only night race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will broadcast live on FOX and Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 7 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images