Martin Truex Jr. Dominates In Kentucky For His Third Win Of The 2017 Seasonby Camille Jones July 9, 2017 0 comments
SPARTA, Ky. – Martin Truex Jr. held off the field in NASCAR Overtime after a dominant performance from flag-to-flag in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway.
The driver of the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota led 152 of the 274-total lap on his way to his third victory of the season. He also won each stage of the race.
“Worried every lap waiting for a caution,” said Truex Jr after holding off the field through an extensive green-flag run. “Especially at the end. You’re counting them down – you know 30, the last 30, the last 20, the last 10 and then you get inside of five and you’re like oh my god, there’s no way there’s not going to be a caution and sure enough there was. Fortunately able to hold them off. This thing was just so stout tonight. A good push from (Kyle) Larson helped us a bunch.”
Truex Jr.’s incredible dominant performance saw him opening up an almost 15-second lead over second place over the course of a long green flag run before the caution came out on lap 267 just before he would have taken the white flag. Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford suffered a mechanical failure.
In an effort to beat the fastest car on track, the rest of the field hit pit road for new tires, hoping to blow by Truex Jr, who was on old tires. The field lined up behind Truex Jr, but with an astounding restart, he soared off to the lead and never looked back. The race was deemed officially over after the field crossed the Overtime Line on the backstretch and a caution soon came out for a four-car incident on the track.
“I thought we were dead,” said Truex Jr in Victory Lane, reacting to the rest of the field pitting for new tires. “I thought we were done. It’s just – this is completely unbelievable. I’m so excited to win here. It felt like we had a shot last year and it got away from us on fuel mileage and just wanted to win here so so bad after that. This is sweet redemption.”
Kyle Larson, who started from the rear due to not making a qualifying run after his team was unable to get his car through technical inspection during Friday’s qualifying session, raced his way from the back of the field to the top-five before a speeding penalty sent him to the rear again. Larson rallied back in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet to finish in the second position.
“Yeah, we had a good car,” said Larson. “We weren’t able to qualify, didn’t pass tech, but knew we’d be all right. I felt like I could roll through (Turns) three and four good in practice, and I felt like that would be the place to pass. Turned out to be that way in the race, and cruised to the front the first time, got to third at the end of that first stage, sped on pit road, had to go to the back again.
“A little bit tougher to get through the field that next time. We were on, there was a wreck, I think, when Brad (Keselowski) had wrecked in (Turns) three and four, and I had to lock it down, came down, had to put scuffs on, and then my balance was just different that run and that led us all the way to the end of that second stage. Was able to get to sixth and then had to restart and fell back, I think, to 11th and pitted at the end of the second stage and had to restart 14th or so, maybe worse than that, and had to just slowly pick off cars.”
Larson said, “Got to second, and then, yeah, finished second. Good race. Car was fast. Wish we could have competed with Martin (Truex Jr.), but he was obviously extremely fast today. We all have some work to do to keep up with him.”
Chase Elliott was able to gain positions on the final restart to finish in the third position in his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet. Elliott was impressed with the smooth night his team had at Kentucky Speedway.
“Yeah, we had a solid night,” Elliott said. “I would say it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t phenomenal, but it was a well-executed night on pit road and on that last restart, I thought, so that was nice and came home with a solid top-five.”
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch completed the top-five in the event. Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-10.
There were three wrecks during the race. The first wreck brought out the caution on lap 89 when Brad Keselowski went for a spin in Turn 3, collecting Jimmie Johnson and sending him into the wall. Both of their nights ended early. Keselowski finished 39th, and Jimmie Johnson finished last in 40th. Clint Bowyer was also involved, but he was able to continue for a 13th-place finish.
“I feel like we were probably in the position for a good top 5 tonight with all things considered,” said seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson. “But, the No. 2 car (Brad Keselowski) got into the corner and he was sideways before we got there. I feel like the car on the outside of him left him some room. But then, talking to Brad inside (the care center), he said he was just sideways before he ever got to the corner. And I thought I almost had him missed. I really thought I had him missed and I just clipped him with my right front. It broke something in the suspension and took me into the fence.”
On lap 95, Kasey Kahne and Trevor Bayne made contact and spun in Turn 2, leaving both with significant damage. Kahne’s night ended early as he finished 38th, but Bayne returned to the track with rear end damage. Bayne spun just laps later and ended his day with a 37th-place finish.
“It was just a restart, I had a run on the No. 6 (Trevor Bayne) and I got under him getting into Turn 1 down the front stretch and he just drove over my front end, pretty simple,” Kahne said.
The incident that brought out the caution that ended the race happened on the backstretch as the field was coming back for the final lap of the event. The wreck included Matt Kenseth, Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace and Austin Dillon.
The gap for the leaders in the points standings is closing as both continue to find success. Kyle Larson now leads the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings by just 1 point over Martin Truex Jr.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next weekend for the Overton’s 301 on Sunday, July 16. Race coverage will be found on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images