“Let’s go win this one for Jim, and we did it,” said Martin Truex Jr., referring to the loss of Furniture Row Racing crew member Jim Watson, who passed away Saturday night of a heart attack. “We got together in the morning and said the best way we could honor Jim and his family would be a victory.”
Truex did what he set out to do in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, scoring his seventh win of the season that was by no means an easy task for the No. 78 team. After starting on the pole Truex led the first 34 laps but then was assessed a restart violation which sent him back to 31st place.
He made a strong comeback in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota by finishing eighth in the first stage, which ended on Lap 80 of 267. But 11 laps later Truex was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a loose wheel, and when he returned to action, he found himself in 32nd place and one lap down.
“Just couldn’t believe some of the things that were happening and thought there was no way that we were going to win,” said Truex, who led 91 laps. “I can’t believe how this day went and that’s why you never give up because you never know what could happen.
“This was a team effort by all accounts. Everybody at the shop for building the cars and all the road crew guys. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) who made some great adjustment calls as the race went on. Also have to thank TRD (Toyota Racing Development) for the great motors all season and our alliance with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). It was also great to win for Bass Pro and share in the celebration with my good friend Johnny Morris.”
Truex put himself back in contention with some powerful driving on two late restarts, gaining seven positions on one and six on the other. Those restarts brought him within striking distance of the leader. He eventually passed Kyle Busch for the lead on Lap 211 and kept the lead for the final 57 laps.
Truex left Kansas with two NASCAR records and a membership into an exclusive NASCAR club.
The two NASCAR records he set were winning six times in a season on a 1.5-mile track and winning four straight 1.5-mile races.
Truex became the 12th driver in NASCAR’s modern era (1972 to present) to lead 2,000 or more laps in a single season. The other 11 drivers who accomplished this feat are: Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. Truex’s has led 2,068 laps with four races remaining in the season.
Truex also became the first driver to sweep Kansas Speedway, where he also won in the spring.
Truex now has 14 career wins. Twelve of those victories have been with Furniture Row Racing.
Truex enters the Round of 8 playoffs first in points. The victory earned him five playoff bonus points bringing his total to 69. The three races in the Round of 8 are at Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 29), Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 5) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 12). The top four drivers advance to final playoff race Nov. 19 at Homestead Miami Speedway. (see current playoff points below).
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!