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Truex Wins Homestead; Earns First Championship

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 19 2017

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates his 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday evening at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Martin Truex Jr. held off Kyle Busch over the final laps to win Sunday’s season-ending race and the NASCAR Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday.

The championship was Truex’s first and also the first for his Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team.

“It’s just overwhelming,” he said. “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that couldn’t run 20th, to be here, I never thought this day would come and to be here is so unbelievable.”

The 37-year-old Truex entered the final race in the Championship 4 as the favorite as his No. 78 Toyota team having been dominant on the 1.5-mile tracks this season.

But on Sunday, his car was not dominant but it did not matter.

“We just never gave up all day long,” he said. “We didn’t have the best car. I don’t know how we won that thing. Never give up. Dig deep. I told my guys we were going to dig dipper than we ever have today and 20 to go I thought I was done – they were all better than me on the long run all day long. I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen. I can’t believe it. I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid and just never give up. Just never give up on your dreams no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through.”

As for the other three drivers eligible for the championship: Busch finished second in the race in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kevin Harvick fourth in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and Brad Keselowski seventh in his Team Penske Ford.

Busch, Harvick and Keselowski were each gunning for a second series championship, the three having won previous titles in 2012 (Keselowski), ’14 (Harvick) and ’15 (Busch).

Kyle Larson, a non-contender, finished third.

Mayetta, N.J. native Truex was the Cup Series’ best driver all year, winning the regular season championship on the strength of four victories.

Once the playoffs began, Truex upped his performance to another level, recording  top-five finishes in every postseason race except for Talladega. He won four times, including the playoff-opening race at Chicagoland, twice in the Round of 12 (Charlotte and Kansas) and the season finale at Homestead.

Truex finished the season with career highs in wins (8), top fives (19), top 10s (26) and laps led (2,250). He led the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in all those stat categories.

It was pretty evident that the Toyotas of FRR and Gibbs had the advantage on Sunday.

“We ran as hard as we could and put it all out there and just basically didn’t have enough speed.  On the mile-and-a-halves we weren’t as good as the 78 and 18 and those guys,” Keselowski said. “This last race coming down to a mile-and-a-half didn’t particularly bode well for us, but my team ran as hard as they could run.  They made some great calls – Paul Wolfe and everybody and put ourselves in position every chance we could to make the most out of the opportunities that existed without just being lightning fast, but it wasn’t there.”

The race started during the heat of the afternoon but finished under the lights and on a cooler track surface. That proved a problem for Harvick.

“I was just really loose the whole last run,” he said. “When it started to get dark we started to get tight in the corner and then we got a hole in the nose. We got that fixed and just couldn’t quite get it where we needed to be to make good times. Some runs we fell off. Some runs we were tight on entry. There at the end we were just too loose.”

The race did not end well for a couple of high-profile drivers who were ending their full-tie careers at Homestead.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishe 25th and three laps off the pace.

“Yeah,” he said, “my thoughts are the beer cooler just got put on the trunk of the car.  I’m going to have a beer with my team right here, right now and we had a lot of fun tonight.  We got the car rolling pretty good and then I hit the wall and had a flat (tire) there at the end, but had a lot of fun out there.  This is a fun old race track.”

Danica Patrick wrecked and finished near the back of the field.

“I hit the wall in three and four and got some fender rub on the tire and it blew the tire,” she said. “I went a couple of laps and there was smoke in the car, but they thought it was all right, but it wasn’t.”

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – Ford EcoBoost 400

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead, Florida

Sunday, November 19, 2017

  1. (2) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
  2. (3) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 267.
  3. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.
  4. (9) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 267.
  5. (18) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267.
  6. (19) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
  7. (5) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 267.
  8. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267.
  9. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.
  10. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267.
  11. (17) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
  12. (16) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.
  13. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 266.
  14. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 266.
  15. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 266.
  16. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 265.
  17. (30) David Ragan, Ford, 265.
  18. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 265.
  19. (12) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 265.
  20. (29) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 265.
  21. (14) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 265.
  22. (8) Kurt Busch, Ford, 265.
  23. (28) Landon Cassill, Ford, 265.
  24. (23) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 265.
  25. (24) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 264.
  26. (32) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 264.
  27. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 264.
  28. (33) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 264.
  29. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 264.
  30. (31) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 263.
  31. (34) Corey LaJoie(i), Toyota, 261.
  32. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 259.
  33. (27) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 234.
  34. (10) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, Brakes, 225.
  35. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Engine, 212.
  36. (38) * David Starr(i), Chevrolet, Brakes, 175.
  37. (25) Danica Patrick, Ford, Accident, 139.
  38. (39) * Ray Black II(i), Chevrolet, Too Slow, 49.
  39. (35) * Joey Gase(i), Toyota, Accident, 4.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  131.9 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 02 Mins, 11 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.681 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 26 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders:    0; M. Truex Jr. (P) 1-12; K. Larson 13-82; B. Keselowski (P) 83; K. Larson 84-121; K. Busch (P) 122-123; K. Larson 124-145; K. Busch (P) 146; K. Larson 147-161; M. Truex Jr. (P) 162-175; K. Busch (P) 176; M. Truex Jr. (P) 177; K. Busch (P) 178-216; M. Truex Jr. (P) 217-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Larson 4 times for 145 laps; M. Truex Jr. (P) 4 times for 78 laps; K. Busch (P) 4 times for 43 laps; B. Keselowski (P) 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 42,2,18,4,78,24,41,11,22,14

Stage #2 Top Ten: 42,78,4,18,2,41,20,22,24,11

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 19 2017
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