The NASCAR World Honors The 2018 Cup Champion

Martin Truex, Jr.

The centerpiece of Thursday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards Ceremony was Martin Truex Jr., a first-time champion who earned the title in stock car racing’s foremost division with a Furniture Row Racing team that got its unlikely start as a single-car operation in Denver, Colorado.

But the sport also bid farewell—as a full-time driver—to Dale Earnhardt Jr., not only by conferring a 15th straight NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on the 26-time race winner, but also by recognizing his accomplishments with the prestigious Bill France Award of Excellence.

Earnhardt, in fact, introduced Truex, his close friend, as the 2017 champion, and there was no doubt Truex deserved the honor. Driving the No. 78 Toyota, Truex led the series in victories with eight and laps led with 2,253.

With the advent of stage racing for the 2017 season, Truex dominated the new format, accumulating a series-best 19 stages wins and enough playoff points to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with one race left in the Round of 8.

Truex then capped the season with a dramatic victory at Homestead, holding off championship runner-up Kyle Busch by .681 seconds.

“I’d have to say the new stage racing worked out pretty well for us,” Truex quipped during his speech, after NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France handed him the championship ring.

Truex’s season, however, wasn’t without its difficult moments. His long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, suffered a recurrence earlier this year. The “Never give up” motto of the No. 78 team also became a mantra in Truex’s personal life.

“No one has lived that out more than my life partner Sherry,” Truex said. “She is the true champion.”

Team owner Barney Visser suffered a heart attack late in the season and, after surgery, was unable to attend the festivities at the Wynn Las Vegas. Visser’s son Tim accepted the champion owner’s award in his stead and assured those at the ceremony that his father was doing well.

Furniture Row Racing fabricator Jim Watson passed away unexpectedly during the Kansas Speedway weekend in the Playoff, and Truex offered a toast to Watson from the podium.

“This has been an emotional journey,” Truex said. “I can’t begin to tell you about all the highs and lows.”

One of the absolute lows occurred during 2014, Truex’s first season with the team. Truex posted only one top-five finish that year and ended the season 24th in the series standings.

“In 2014 we struggled, and you didn’t give up on me—thank you,” Truex said team president Joe Garone.

It wasn’t until Truex joined forces with crew chief Cole Pearn late in that first year that the turnaround at Furniture Row started. In 2015 they made it to the Championship 4 and finished fourth. A year later, they were champions.

“You’re the best crew chief and team coach I’ve ever known, and, buddy, thank you for making me a champion,” Truex said to Pearn.

The honors to Truex and the Furniture Row organization followed a special tribute to Earnhardt introduced by the NASCAR chairman.

“The Bill France Award of Excellence is not given out every year,” France said. “It’s for the ultimate achievement and contribution to the sport they love—NASCAR. Sometimes it’s on the track. Sometimes it’s off the track. And every once in a while, it’s both.

“Tonight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence.”

It was entirely predictable that Earnhardt would receive his 15th Most Popular Driver Award at the end of his final season in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The Bill France Award was a surprise.

“It’s a real honor,” Earnhardt said after a long round of applause. “I always tell people all the time that all I wanted to do in racing was to be able pay my bills and be able to race for a long time. I’ve just enjoyed being a part of the sport.

“I didn’t know whether I’d win races or have the opportunity to win championships. I just wanted to be in it. I feel lucky and fortunate to have been able to do some good things, inside the car and outside the car. I always tried to take a lot of pride in taking the sport to new places and introducing it to new people.

“I’ve got to thank the fans, because without them, none of the opportunities that I ever had in racing would have happened.”

Earnhardt then had some sage advice for Truex.

“I remember when I won my first race, my dad (the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.) said, ‘Celebrate this,’ and I know what he meant after all these years, ‘cause you never get to celebrate that first win again,” Earnhardt said.

“You never get to celebrate that first championship again, so we’re going to celebrate it good tonight, Martin.”

In his runner-up speech, Kyle Busch also made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Earnhardt. He thanks NASCAR’s most popular driver for “converting all of Junior Nation into Rowdy fans.” That was one of the biggest laugh lines of the night.

Not lost among the festivities was the contribution 2003 champion Matt Kenseth has made to the sport. With no concrete plans for next year after completing his final season in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kenseth has announced a hiatus from the sport, one he acknowledges could mark the end of his career as a Monster Energy Series driver.

“Matt, I wish you the best in the future,” Truex said from the podium. “You’re an awesome person and a great driver.”

Truex and Busch, along with Playoff drivers Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, led Toyota to its second straight manufacturers championship.

In a poignant tribute, Bob Carter, executive vice president, sales for Toyota Motor North America, dedicated the championship to J.D. Gibbs. The son of team owner Joe Gibbs has been stricken with a serious neurological disorder.

“J.D. is a friend to everyone in this room,” Carter said. “He’s a father. He’s a great person to be with. J.D., I know you’re home watching. You’re recovering. You’re a fighter. This celebration, this manufacturer’s award is on behalf of you.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Here Charter, Charter!

Chris Buescher
Another key piece to 2018 that still needs to be announced is which teams will have the 36 guaranteed positions for each race. Those go to teams with NASCAR-issued charters.

The Furniture Row Racing #77 team charter has been sold to JTG Daugherty Racing for its #37 car.

Among those teams that need a charter for 2018: #12-Team Penske (Blaney), #21-Wood Brothers Racing (Menard) and #72-TriStar Motorsports (Cole Whitt).

Teams that currently have extra charters for next year include Roush Fenway Racing (it gets back the one leased to JTG), Richard Petty Motorsports (it gets back the one leased to Go Fas Racing, which gets back the charter it leased to the Wood Brothers) and Front Row Motorsports (it gets back the one leased to TriStar). If RCR doesn’t field the #27 car, RCR also would have a charter available for lease or sale.

Teams are allowed to lease out a charter for one year but then must use it or sell it over a five-year period. There is no limit as far as how many years a team can lease a charter from various organizations to keep the guaranteed spot in the field, it just can’t be the same charter year-to-year.

The pieces of the puzzle are slowing starting to make their way on puzzle board for 2018.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK! 

Truex And FRR Is The Little Train That Did!

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dream season with a tenacious late-race drive to capture the NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex, who led four times for 78 laps in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, held off a hard-charging Kyle Busch while leading the final 51 laps. His margin of victory over Busch was 0.681 seconds. Truex needed to finish ahead of Busch and the two other Championship 4 drivers — Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski — to claim the season title.

The victory was the eighth of the season for Truex, who now owns 15 career Cup wins. Thirteen of those wins have been with the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team.

The 2017 season for Furniture Row Racing also saw the No. 78 team win the regular season championship and Erik Jones of the No. 77 team win Rookie of the Year.

Truex was no doubt deserving of the title. In the 10-playoff races he won four times and scored nine top fives. The only non top-five finish was 23rd at Talladega where he was involved in a multicar accident.  His overall playoff average finish was 4.3.  Take away the Talladega result, his average finish in the other nine races was 2.2.

When the white flag waved at Homestead Truex knew the championship was his, and when he crossed the finish line the emotion of the herculean moment left him speechless.

“I balled like a baby, I couldn’t talk,” said Truex. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over and times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the people who mattered did — my fans, my family and then when I got with this team they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”

Truex added, “This means the world. (team owner) Barney Visser 11 years of working towards this goal. He couldn’t be here tonight and we’re all thinking of him. Definitely wish he could have been here. I know he’s probably as much in shock as I am. Jim Watson, Cole’s best friend (Jacob Damen) and Sherry. This one is for all of you!”

Truex, started the 267-lap race second. He had some handling issues early, but as the race wore on, his Toyota Camry found more grip in a lane he never ran in the past on the 1.5-mile oval.

“It’s the dumbest lane I’ve ever run here, but it worked, so I have to put it in the memory bank for later,” explained Truex. “Just all came together – it was meant to be. This whole year has been a dream year.

“We’ve got the best fans in the world and Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and everybody that puts so much into this — Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners, WIX, 5-hour ENERGY, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, the road crew and the guys back at the shop in Denver. The list goes on and on of people who help us do this and make it all possible. And Barney Visser back home had heart surgery last week and we’re missing him today. Thanks to everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the chassis and cooperation and running one-two tonight was pretty awesome.”

According to crew chief Cole Pearn, the planning for Homestead started long before the championship race.

“We just focused on this race for a long time,” said Pearn. “We knew if we were going to be champions, we were going to have to get a lot better here. I can’t thank the number of hours that everybody put into this car and into this race. You know coming here and testing there are a lot of wives on our team who will be happy that this car made it and did what it did and it took every hour of it.

“We had to race three other great guys and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was really good. I think they were honestly a little better than us and Martin was able to dig down and get it done. I don’t really know how to comprehend it at this point. Just so so thrilled and be able to truly call ourselves champions is unbelievable.”

Truex and Furniture Row Racing will take center stage during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, which will culminate with the NASCAR Awards Banquet at The Wynn on Thursday, Nov. 30.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr.’s 2017 Championship Resume

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex, Jr’s season numbers:

2 – Number of times Martin Truex Jr. has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Playoffs format.

3 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

3 – Number of Coors Light poles Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

4.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2017 Playoffs.

7 – Number of wins Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season; including three during the Playoffs – (Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicago, Charlotte-2, Kansas-2).

7 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

9.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the entire 2017 season.

12.3 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway

18 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

19 – Number of stage wins Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

25 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

101.8 – Martin Truex Jr.’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

111 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Martin Truex Jr.

115.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s 2017 driver rating (series-best).

119.81 – Martin Truex Jr.’s driver rating during the first nine races of the 2017 Playoffs.

2,175 – Laps led by Martin Truex Jr. in 2017.

The One Without A Title

“That means it’s my turn.”

That was Martin Truex Jr.’s response following the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix when he was reminded that he is the lone driver in the 2017 Championship 4 who does not have the title “Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion” after his name.

Brad Keselowski (2012), Kevin Harvick (2014) and Kyle Busch (2015) have all hoisted the coveted year-end prize above their heads on the frontstretch at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex Jr. had a shot as a member of the Championship 4 in 2015, but finished 12th in the race.

It has been a gradual climb to greatness for Martin Truex Jr. with Furniture Row Racing – but the journey has been grand for him. His seven wins in 2017 doubled his career total, bringing him to 14. He went winless in his first year with the team (2014), made one trip to Victory Lane in his second season and then broke out with four wins in 2016. (Truex’s other two wins came in 2007 with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and in 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing.)

Now, he just needs the championship to reach the summit.

The One Without A Title, Team Edition

Not only is Martin Truex Jr. racing for his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, so is Furniture Row Racing.

Their Championship 4 contemporaries all have titles under their belts with their respective drivers (Team Penske with Brad Keselowski – 2012, Stewart-Haas Racing with Kevin Harvick – 2014, Joe Gibbs Racing with Kyle Busch – 2015).

Furniture Row Racing started racing in the Monster Energy Series in 2005 and collected their first pole in 2008 with Joe Nemechek. They didn’t tally their first win until 2011 (with Regan Smith) and qualified for the Playoffs in 2013 – the first single-car team to do so.

Truex Jr. joined the then one-car operation based in Denver, Colorado, for the 2014 season. Cole Pearn then took over atop the pit box in 2015 with the No. 78 Toyota made it to the Championship 4 in his inaugural year with Truex Jr.

Their fourth-place finish in the season standings in 2015 was the best thus far for the team and they have been breaking team records for wins and laps led ever since.

The One Without A Title, Crew Chief Edition

There is one more person looking for a huge first championship this weekend – the crew chief of the No. 78 Toyota, Cole Pearn.

His Championship 4 contemporaries all have titles under their belts with their respective drivers (Paul Wolfe with Brad Keselowski – 2012, Rodney Childers with Kevin Harvick – 2014, Adam Stevens with Kyle Busch – 2015).

Cole Pearn took the reins with the Furniture Row Racing team in 2015 and all he has done since then is prove he’s one of the best in the business.

He tallied one win atop the pit box in his first year while guiding Martin Truex Jr. to the Championship 4 and a fourth-place finish in the standings. He then captured four wins and five poles in 2016, setting new team records in both categories.

And you already know the numbers he’s put on the board in 2017 – seven wins, 18 top fives and 25 top 10s.

Reversing Recent Fortune In Miami

In order for Martin Truex Jr. to win the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s going to have to reverse his recent fortune at the 1.5-mile track. His last three finishes there? 17, 12, and 36.

But if there’s anyone who can power to the front on a 1.5-mile track, it’s Martin Truex Jr. The driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing has recorded six wins at that distance in 2017 (Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky, Chicago, Charlotte and Kansas-2). When he drove into Victory Lane at the second Kansas race, it marked the first time in NASCAR history that a driver won four consecutive races on 1.5-mile tracks.

So, we’re saying there’s a chance Truex Jr. could drive to his first career win on the South Florida track – and therefore to his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Pretty Much Perfect On Paper

If you were forced to pick a favorite heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, you would probably choose Martin Truex Jr.

He leads the field, not just the Championship 4, in nearly every statistical category. Seven wins. 18 top fives. 25 top 10s. 2,175 laps led. An average finish of 9.7 (more than two positions better than Kyle Busch’s 11.8).

And a season-long driver rating that’s seven points better than his next closest Championship 4 competitor (115.7 compared to Busch’s 108.2).

Did I mention he has six wins this season on 1.5-mile tracks? Which just happens to be the length of the host track this weekend.

It’s hard to pick against those numbers!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Erik Jones Had A Very Strong 4th Place Finish At Phoenix

Erik Jones
Erik Jones continued his rock solid performance at Phoenix Raceway by taking Furniture Row’s No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota to a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500.

The 21-year-old series rookie kept alive a streak of now 12 consecutive top-10 finishes in as many starts on the one-mile oval, including two victories in the Camping World Truck Series. He finished eighth in the Cup race in March.

Jones also moved up on spot, to 18th, in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 35 races. His 847 points is 47 points behind Joey Logano for 17th, two ahead of Clint Bowyer for 19th and 73 points ahead of Daniel Suarez in 20th.

“Today was a good day for us,” said Jones. “The 5-hour ENERGY Camry was good. Definitely had the speed to run up front and contend for the win – so thanks to TRD for that – but I just didn’t really execute 100 percent on the last restart to really give myself the shot I needed. Kind of a bummer, but overall really strong day for us – another day we needed. It had been a minute since we had really ran in the top-five competitively and had a shot and that is what we did today. Nice to get back on track. Nice momentum for next week and hopefully being able to close the season out with a win.”

Jones was a mainstay in the top 10 throughout the 312-lap race. After starting 11th, he finished seventh in Stage 1 and third in Stage 2 despite chasing the handling of the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota from tight to loose and back again.

Crew chief Chris Gayle called for a 2-tire stop under caution on Lap 256 while running fifth. Most of the leaders stayed out so Jones restarted 11th with just more than 50 laps remaining. He was back to fifth by Lap 273 and into fourth on Lap 275. He crossed the finish line just behind Furniture Row Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Matt Kenseth won the race. The balance of the top-10 finishers were: Chase Elliott, Truex, Jones, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The race had seven cautions for 41 laps and one red flag for five minutes. There were nine lead changes among five drivers.

The final race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series is Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Had Another Very Strong Race At Phoenix

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. had another strong playoff run, finishing third in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. The result was a career best for the Furniture Row Racing driver at Phoenix Raceway.

“We go into each race with the same attitude and that is to be a contender for the win,” said Truex. “You can’t turn it off and on in this sport. We’ve had trouble at this track in the past but had a good game plan coming in.

“We stuck with the plan all weekend and we were right there all day. It was a good day for Furniture Row Racing (teammate Erik Jones finished fourth) and I hope this put a smile on the face of our owner Barney Visser. We’re all thinking of him during his recovery.”

Truex will close out the 2017 season next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the Championship 4 drivers vying for the season title. He will be joined by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. The driver who scores the best finish among the four finalists will be crowned the NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“We’re all excited about going to Homestead with the opportunity of winning the championship,” stated Truex. “This is what we set out to do at the beginning of the year.”

Truex, who started the Phoenix race fifth in the blue No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, powered by a TRD engine, basically ran in the top-five for the entire race.

“We were right there all day long,” said Truex. “Had a sniff at the lead a couple times – just couldn’t quite get it – but I’ve got to say I’m so proud of (race winner) Matt (Kenseth) and his team and the year they’ve had and really the position they’re in right now. To go out and win that race was unbelievable, so I was really, really happy for him. He did an awesome job.”

With one race remaining, Truex has garnered seven wins, 18 top fives, 25 top 10s and 2175 laps led — all series leading numbers.

Take away the Talladega wreckfest race, Truex’s average finish in the other eight playoff races is 2.37.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Has 1200 Reasons To Win At Phoenix

Martin Truex, Jr.
Though he already clinched a Championship 4 berth, Martin Truex Jr. has more than 1200 reasons to go all out in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway, the final event in the Round of 8 playoffs.

Riding along with Truex in the 312-lap race will be 1200 Auto-Owners Insurance associates, plus family and friends, whose names will be on the hood of the No. 78 Toyota. The Auto-Owners associates took part in the Race with Martin campaign by donating money to the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation which supports a number of causes including childhood cancer and ovarian cancer. The employee contribution along with an Auto-Owners company match totaled $75,000.

“They (Auto-Owners) kept the Race with Martin campaign a secret from me,” said Truex. “And when I was presented the $75,000 check for our foundation, I was overwhelmed and lost for words. It just blew me away. The best way I could thank them was winning the Charlotte race that same day (Oct. 8) in the No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota. And the best way I can thank those 1200 associates riding with me on Sunday is to once again drive the blue car to Victory Lane.”

Truex, a seven-time winner this season, clinched the final four spot after finishing runner-up Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Thanks to a bankroll of playoff bonus points earned throughout the season, Truex advanced to the championship round on points. He needed to leave Texas with a 56-point margin ahead of the fourth place driver. He left with a 57-point lead over Brad Keselowski, who is positioned in fourth place heading to Phoenix.

Truex joins Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick as the three drivers who already clinched a final four berth for the Homestead-Miami Speedway race on Sunday Nov. 19.

“We’re going into Phoenix as if we need to win the race to make it to Homestead,” said Truex. “You can’t turn it off and on, you have to continue the way you have been doing things and keeping building momentum.

“The biggest challenge for Phoenix is to find grip and to have consistency where it is somewhat comfortable over the long runs. The hardest thing to figure out are the ends of the racetrack, which are completely different.”

So far Truex is having a consistent playoff run. Take away the 19-car pile-up he was involved in at Talladega, his average finish in the other seven playoff races is 2.28.  He has scored three wins, two runners-up, a fourth and a fifth.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Erik Jones Has Never Finished Outside Of The Top 10 At PIR

Erik Jones
Though Erik Jones grew up in Byron, Mich., 70 miles northwest of Detroit, it’s the home cooking at Phoenix Raceway he has been waiting to taste for the past eight months.

The driver of Furniture Row Racing’s No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota believes Sunday’s Can-Am 500 as the best opportunity in the season’s final two races to capture his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. He has very good reason to think so.

In 11 races at Phoenix Raceway in NASCAR’s top three series, Jones has never finished outside the top 10. He earned his first career Camping World Truck Series victory there in 2013 and repeated in 2014. The 21-year-old has also tallied four other top-five and five more top-10 finishes. Two of those top-10 finishes were a ninth in just his third NASCAR Cup Series race, subbing for Matt Kenseth in November 2015, and an eighth earlier this year in his Furniture Row Racing debut there.

“Winning that first Truck race in 2013 was huge and cemented for me that Phoenix Raceway is a special place,” said Jones. “I’ve just felt comfortable racing there from the beginning and that gives me that much more motivation. We were running fifth late in the race earlier this year and I thought we had a shot at the win until that final caution shuffled us back a little. I know we can win there so it’s just a matter of execution and catching a break or two.”

Jones also knows how to get the job done in qualifying. Three times each he’s earned the pole, second place, or third place on the starting grid. Both of his NASCAR Cup Series starts have been in the top 10, qualifying eighth earlier this season and seventh in 2015.

“I’m just so proud of how far this 5-hour ENERGY Toyota team has come this season,” said Jones. “We started the year out with the speed we needed from TRD (Toyota Racing Development) to run up front. Racing in the Cup Series has been a learning process for all of us and by the middle of the season I felt like we got better about what we needed to do to be more successful and compete for a win. So it’s been awesome to see the progress we’ve made with a brand new team.”

Jones is 19th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with 802 points after 34 races. He trails Clint Bowyer for 18th by 18 points (820) and Joey Logano for 17th place by 67 points (869) and is ahead of Daniel Suarez in 20th place by 47 points (755).

Jones leads the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 261 points, seven ahead of Suarez (254) and 71 ahead of Ty Dillon (190).

The 312-lap, 312-mile Can-Am 500 will consist of three stages of 75/75/162 laps (75/150/312).

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Erik Jones Logs A Tenth Place Finish At The AAA Texas 500

Erik Jones
Erik Jones came into the AAA Texas 500 needing a strong run to build on for the final races of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season and the hard-earned 10th-place finish in the No. 77 Sport Clips Toyota at Texas Motor Speedway did just that.

It was Jones’ 13th top-10 finish of the season and broke a string of six consecutive races without one. It was also 12 positions better than the rookie driver’s 22nd-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

Jones remains 19th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 34 races with 802 points. He is 18 points behind Clint Bowyer for 18th, 67 behind Joey Logano for 17th and 47 points ahead of Daniel Suarez in 20th.

“I think the Sport Clips Toyota was pretty decent today,” said Jones, who won Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race for a sweep of the series’ 2017 races at Texas Motor Speedway. “We never quite had the track position we wanted, especially toward the end of the race. We got stuck in the back of the top 10 and never could get back into the top five where I thought we could have run. It was an ok day, nonetheless, getting another top-10 day for the team. We needed a good run to get our momentum back for the final couple of races of the season and we did that today.”

Starting fourth, on the outside of Row 2, the No. 77 Sport Clips Toyota was scored fifth at the end of Stage 1 on Lap 85 and ninth after Stage 2 on Lap 170. Early in the final stage, Jones raced in the top 10 while dealing with a loose handling race car. Contact with a competitor’s car caused a right-front tire rub but it worked itself free allowing Jones to continue. He battled for 10th the balance of the race to finish just ahead of Kasey Kahne.

Kevin Harvick won the race. The balance of the top-10 finishers were Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Jones.

The race had 27 lead changes among 13 drivers. There were eight cautions for 40 laps and one red flag for 10 minutes.

The next race is Nov. 12 at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Has A Reservation At Homestead!

Martin Truex, Jr.
There were no high-fives or pats on the back by Furniture Row Racing after Martin Truex Jr. clinched a spot in the Final Four as a result of finishing second in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

But there was an expected sigh of relief for the Denver, Colo.-based team, which will compete for the season championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19.

It will be Truex’s second time as a Final Four participant. He also accomplished the feat in 2015.

Truex is one of three drivers locked into the Final four. He joins Kyle Busch and Sunday’s race winner Kevin Harvick. The final participant will determined in Phoenix next week (Sunday Nov. 12).

The NASCAR Cup Series champion will be determined at Homestead with the driver having the best finish among the four finalists.

The 334-lap AAA Texas 500 was a mixture of emotions for the No. 78 team. Truex, who led a race high of 107 laps, lost the lead to Harvick with 10 laps remaining on the 1.5-mile track. Before losing the lead, Truex led 37 consecutive laps.

“The Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota got loose in the final run and we just couldn’t hold off the No. 4 (Harvick),” said Truex. “But on the good side of things, we did what we had to do to compete for the season title at Homestead in two weeks. I am really proud of this team, the guys on the road and all the guys back at the shop in Denver for building fast race cars.”

Regarding the final run of 47 laps, Truex said, “On the long runs I would get really loose getting into the corners. As the run went on, I would get looser and looser. Wasn’t much I could do about it. I could hold my own in clean air, but as soon as I caught lapped cars, I would get loose in the corner. He (Harvick) got to my outside and was just faster at the end. Once he got in front of us he was just gone. Nothing I could do. Just one of those deals where he was quicker.”

The Texas result was the second straight runner-up result for Truex, who also finished second last week in Martinsville, Va. Take away the Talladega playoff race where Truex was involved in multicar accident, his average finish in the other seven playoff races is 2.28. He has had three wins, two runners-up, a fourth and a fifth.

The Texas result was also Truex’s 17th top-five and 24th top-10 finish of the season. And going into Phoenix, he continues to lead the point standings.

The race had 27 lead changes among 13 drivers. There were eight cautions for 40 laps and one red flag for 10 minutes.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!