Truex Jr. Slows Down To Get First Win At The Glen

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 6 2017

Martin Truex Jr. got to spray bubbly for the fourth time in 2017 Sunday when he won at the Watkins Glen International road course. (RacinToday/HHP photo byDavid Tulis)

With three victories in 2017 and a playoff berth already bagged, Martin Truex Jr. could afford to gamble in Sunday’s 32nd annual I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Truex, one of a handful of drivers at the front of a field facing nagging fuel questions over the final laps, opted to conserve and stay on-track. In doing so, he was rewarded with victory No. 4 on the season and his first around the historic Watkins Glen International road-course in Upstate New York.

“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment just because I’ve been thinking about this one a long time _ all weekend, all day,” said Truex, a native of New Jersey. “I love New Jersey but I like New York, at least this part of New York after today.

“It’s awesome. It means a lot to be in Victory Lane here at this racetrack. I’ve been coming here a long time and feel like we’ve been close and had a few slip away from us, but I’m really excited. Great to see an awesome turnout here today with the fans and the sellout. Such a unique and great part of the country. This weather is amazing. We love coming up here to race. Pretty cool to check this one off the box as far as road courses. Everybody wants to win at these places, so to get this one is special.”

Truex’s margin of victory was 0.414-seconds over Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing, who made a desperate charge at Truex’s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Denver Mattress Toyota Camry on the final lap.

“I mean, man, all these years trying to do this it’s disappointing to come home second when I had a shot at him (Truex) there,” said Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Care Camry. “But in all reality he just slowed down as much as I did and watched his back. He had a lot faster car today, but the guys had a great strategy and I was able to save a lot early in that run and just tried to manage my back and the gap behind me and had enough fuel there for the end.”

Rookie Daniel Suarez of JGR finished third in his No. 19 STANLEY Camry on the day the native of Mexico won his first stage, the second of the race’s three segments. Denny Hamlin of JGR finished fourth in the No. 11 FedEx Freight Camry to give Toyota the top-four finishers.

Truex now has 11 career Cup wins, including nine with Furniture Row Racing. In 12 career starts at WGI he has one win, four top-fives, seven top-10s and has completed 100 percent of the laps _ 1,082 of 1,082. He also set a personal career mark by notching nine top-fives in a season.

Truex led a race-high 24 laps. Several of the laps he did not lead came over the final trips around the 2.45-mile/11-turn layout as he balloon-footed his Toyota to save fuel. One by one, those challenging him peeled off to pit.

Pretty tough to play defense in racing, Truex said. “At the end it’s so hard there to let guys pass you for the lead,” Truex said. “You’ve just got to listen to your crew chief and luckily for me I’ve got the best one in the business (Cole Pearn) and I just believe in him so much and I just do what he says and it seems to work out. I’ve just got to thank him.”

For Pearn, victory brought a measure well-appreciated relief to what’s been an emotional week.

“Yeah, it’s been probably the hardest week of my life,” Pearn said. “I don’t know, it’s still…it’s not over yet. I lost my best friend growing up this week.  He caught a random bacterial infection from a cut and basically died in a day. It’s not like he was sick.  I talked to him the day before. They were coming to Michigan next weekend.  So just doesn’t seem real still. He’s got two little boys who are not going to know their dad pretty much. I don’t know, we’ll get through it as a group.

“We were lucky to have an unbelievable friend and family around that will make sure everybody is all right. But he was a heart-of-gold guy that…I don’t know, I still haven’t come to terms with it, to be honest.”

When asked to evaluate his driver’s performance, Pearn termed Truex’s ability to save fuel and stay focused “one of the best” in the garage area.

“The No. 18 (pole-sitter Kyle Busch) was really good early, but we knew we were the next best car,” Pearn said. “I think we got our car better after the first pit stop. But for Martin to have the discipline to do that (save fuel) and then at the same time you’re at a road course. You know, just saving fuel on an oval is one thing but trying to save fuel at a road course is a whole different animal because it’s all about braking hard and accelerating here. It’s a unique challenge, and for him to be able to do that and stay disciplined is a huge accomplishment.”

Several of the drivers who unsuccessfully chased Truex, and had cars fast enough to win, had to play it safe and/or pit late in the 90-lapper. Those drivers are winless on the season and had to keep driver points in mind as they may need them to qualify for the 10-race playoffs.

One of those was Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing.

“When you have them there at arm’s reach you want to go for it,” said Bowyer, who finished fifth in the No. 14 Ford Fusion. “That’s the win that will put you into the Chase right there in front of you. But if you run out of gas that’s the dagger that will knock you out for good. It’s the right thing. We just have to keep knocking on the door. Another top-five with our Five Star Urgent Care car. It’s a new sponsor on the car. Hopefully we can get them on board for another shot.”

Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing paced 20 laps and was leading when he had to pit with just a couple laps to go. After pitting, he still had a shot at the win but that chance fizzled when it was determined he had committed a pit lane violation and was forced to take a drive-through.

“Tough break,” said Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. “I guess I drove through too many pit stalls leaving. Gosh, it’s a bummer. We weren’t the fastest car today but we raced real hard and with a lot of heart. That put us in position. I hate that I cost us a top-five to a 15th. Good effort all around.”

Ryan Blaney also led late, taking the point with three laps to go. But he too had to pit to fuel the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire& Auto Ford fielded by Wood Brothers Racing.

“I stumbled down the back coming to two to go, so we wouldn’t have made it,” said Blaney, reflecting on the final few laps. “It stinks. I wish I would have saved earlier like the No. 78 did. I pushed hard and thought we were better to go on gas than they were. They did a good job saving. I could have done better. If I would have started saving sooner, I think we would have made it. You never know.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s farewell tour from hell continued to run to form at The Glen. Just 22 laps into the race, his No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS fielded by Hendrick Motorsports was sidelined by an engine gremlin.

“We had a problem with the valve train and we can’t fix it,” said Earnhardt, whose hopes to earn a playoff berth in his final season as a fulltime driver appear to be waning. “It’s been a really difficult week. We’ve been way down on speed and we had a pretty good car at Sonoma (Raceway in June), so I was kind of looking forward to coming here. The guys worked really hard. We changed this car inside and out twice this weekend. And, we had made it better and we were kind of hanging in there. I think we had a shot at maybe a top-20 at best. But man, we showed up and we were about four seconds off.

“It’s been a little frustrating this weekend. This doesn’t make it much better. But I sure have enjoyed racing here and really appreciate the fans here and the track and the staff. They’ve treated us so good every time we’ve been here, so it’s been a blessing.”

Truex, who finished second in the first two stages, has increased his championship lead to 116-points over second place Kyle Busch. Truex also leads in playoff bonus points with 34. There are four regular season races remaining before the start of the 10-race playoffs.

The race saw nine lead changes among six drivers and only three cautions for eight laps. Truex’s average winning speed was 104.132 mph.

The tour resumes next weekend featuring Sunday’s race at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway.


Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen Watkins Glen International 

Watkins Glen, New York

Sunday, August 6, 2017

  1. (3) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 90.
  2. (15) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 90.
  3. (5) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 90.
  4. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 90.
  5. (12) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 90.
  6. (18) Kurt Busch, Ford, 90.
  7. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 90.
  8. (16) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 90.
  9. (7) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 90.
  10. (6) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 90.
  11. (17) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 90.
  12. (14) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 90.
  13. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 90.
  14. (9) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 90.
  15. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 90.
  16. (19) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 90.
  17. (20) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 90.
  18. (21) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 90.
  19. (24) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 90.
  20. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 90.
  21. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 90.
  22. (25) Danica Patrick, Ford, 90.
  23. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 90.
  24. (13) Joey Logano, Ford, 90.
  25. (23) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 90.
  26. (27) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 90.
  27. (31) David Ragan, Ford, 90.
  28. (37) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 90.
  29. (10) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 90.
  30. (35) Boris Said, Chevrolet, 89.
  31. (34) Gary Klutt, Chevrolet, 89.
  32. (33) * Brett Moffitt(i), Toyota, 89.
  33. (36) Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 89.
  34. (26) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 81.
  35. (30) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 80.
  36. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 78.
  37. (28) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, Engine, 22.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  104.132 mph.

Time of Race:  02 Hrs, 07 Mins, 03 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.414 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  3 for 8 laps.

Lead Changes:  9 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   Kyle Busch 1-21; C. Elliott 22-30; D. Suarez # 31-44; M. Truex Jr. 45-52; R. Blaney 53; B. Keselowski 54-63; M. Truex Jr. 64-76; B. Keselowski 77-86; R. Blaney 87; M. Truex Jr. 88-90.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  M. Truex Jr. 3 times for 24 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 21 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 20 laps; D. Suarez # 1 time for 14 laps; C. Elliott 1 time for 9 laps; R. Blaney 2 times for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,78,24,42,2,1,22,47,5,17

Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,78,20,21,77,11,2,41,18,47

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 6 2017
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