SPARTA, Ky. (July 9, 2017) – What was looking like a dominating victory for Martin Truex Jr. at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night turned into a buzzer-beater type of win for the Furniture Row Racing driver.
With just over one lap remaining in the Quaker State 400, Truex was crushing the field with a whopping 15-second lead in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota. But just as Truex was on his way to taking the white flag, a caution was called for fluid on the track as a result of an engine issue in Kurt Busch’s car.
Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn were faced with an agonizing dilemma – to pit for fresh tires or not to pit. If they pitted the field would have stayed out, if they didn’t pit the field would most likely pit for two or four tires.
Truex didn’t pit while the cars behind him either took two or four fresh Goodyears. The decision by Pearn not to pit turned out to be the right call as Truex nailed his restart on older tires in the same pressure-cooker fashion that Lebron James would connect for a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
“I thought we were done,” said Truex referring to the final restart. “Honestly, we had such a good race car I think my main concern was just trying to get out front. If I could get to the lead I thought I’d be ok. Got to thank (Kyle) Larson. He gave me a heck of a shove. I kind of waited until late in the restart zone just hoping I’d get a push because I knew I was going to be struggling and then there was a lot of speed driving down on that bottom groove. I thought that might play into it and I think that helped us a little bit. I was able to clear Kyle (Busch) into (Turn) one and then the rest was history.”
After taking the lead on the final restart, Truex made it past the overtime victory line before the final caution came out due to a multicar wreck.
It was the third win of the season for Truex, tying him with Jimmie Johnson for most victories. It was also Truex’s 10th career victory with eight of them coming as a Furniture Row Racing driver.
Truex’s dominating performance included victories in all three stages plus leading the most laps (152). He is the only driver to score the trifecta and he has done it twice. The other trifecta win was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier in the season. He leads in stage wins at 13 – nine more than the next closest competitor and also leads in playoff bonus points with 28. He is one point behind Kyle Larson in the overall driver standings.
“I was worried every lap waiting for a caution, especially at the end,” said Truex. “You’re counting them down – you know 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 we were able to hold them off. This Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota was just so stout tonight. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) continues to do an amazing job as do all the guys here at the track and the guys back at the shop in Denver. And a big thank you to TRD (Toyota Racing Development). I have had fast race cars all year.
“I got to say hi to Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) back home. She didn’t make it this weekend, so ‘I love you babe’. And all these awesome fans, thank you guys so much for coming out. What an awesome crowd. I hope they enjoyed it and that was a whole lot of fun.”
Following Truex to the checkered flag to round out the top 10 were: Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney.
The race had nine cautions for 39 laps and there were nine lead changes among four drivers.
The next race is Sunday July 16 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.