Truex Survives Wallburger To Win The 600

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 27 2019
Martin Truex Jr. won NASCAR’s marathon event on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr.’s chances for his second Coca-Cola 600 victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway appeared to disintegrate on lap 74 when he blew a tire and hit the wall while leading Sunday night’s race, but that was merely a fallacy.

Over the next 125 laps, Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing crew diligently worked on the damaged car, fixing both right-side fenders and wheel openings on the tires. No suspension was damaged, but later in the race the left rear was knocked in when a collision with Chase Elliott’s Chevrolet occurred.

“Really, it was just a matter of getting all the tires clear and then, obviously, the aero balance was a lot,” crew chief Cole Pearn said. “We had to free the car up a ton to kind of get the balance back.”

Truex said they finally got his Toyota “dialed back in” about lap 250 in the 400-lap race. However, it was Truex’s skill in a five-lap sprint to the finish that enabled him to emerge the victor by 0.330-second over Joey Logano.

“We could do that same restart four more times and lose all four of them,” Truex said. “It’s all momentum.  It’s all just the lane you’re in, the way you time it.”

Truex’s second victory in the last four Coca-Cola 600s was his third win at the 1.5-mile track, his third this season and the 22nd of his career.

“This is the wildest race we’ve ever won,” Pearn said. “We had a couple runs there where we had to sit with our butt cheeks clenched together, hoping it (tire) wasn’t going to blow again.”

Pearn said if Sunday night’s accident had occurred “20 feet earlier in the corner we would have knocked the fence down and probably” been out of the race.

Truex couldn’t believe his car’s appearance when he saw its scrapped, flat right side in victory lane.

“It looks like we raced the damn thing at Martinsville,” said Truex, who was the top lap leader, setting the pace on six occasions for 116 laps. “I’m just kind of amazed and kind of speechless.”

The wild five-lap dash that saw some cars racing three-wide on the track’s backstretch was set up by Brad Keselowski’s spin on lap 391. When the 16th and final caution flag waved, David Ragan took the lead by remaining on the track when the rest of the lead-lap cars pitted. Ryan Newman raced off pit road first due to receiving only two tires. Truex was the first off pit road with four new tires.

“I knew that whoever got out front first with four tires was probably going to win with a four-lap shootout,” Truex said. “You don’t have enough time to get around somebody.

“Newman is a good friend of mine and he started in front of me. I just tried to shove him as good as I could to get our line going. With this package you’ve got to get the momentum going with your line. You can’t just pull out and make it three wide or make a big move like that because if the outside lane stays tight in line, they’re going to just drive away from you. 

“I just tried to get our line going, just like we were pretty even going into (turn) 1, the inside, the outside lane.  I was just pushing Ryan, pushing Ryan, pushing Ryan trying to get him going, and we came off of (turn) 2 and somehow they got three wide on that front row. At that point those three guys just kind of stalled out, and I had just enough momentum.  I just yanked it left and said, ‘Here’s my chance.’  There was a hole to go there, and I had just enough of a run to clear a few of them getting into (turn) 3 and then off of (turn) 4 I was just able to sneak up in front of the 22 (Logano).  I mean, by like a quarter of an inch.  Literally, as soon as I got almost straight he was on my bumper and I was sideways.”

Before the damage occurred to Truex’s car, the New Jersey native thought this year’s race might resemble the 2016 version when he dominated the event and completed it in record time. Instead, Truex was lucky to finish Stage 1 in ninth.

Truex’s crew focused on repairing the car’s right side during the caution period that ended Stage 1 and their diligence paid off. When Chris Buescher brought out the seventh caution flag on lap 128, Truex didn’t pit in order to gain track position. He restarted second behind Elliott. However, his older tires were no match for those cars on new ones and he quickly fell through the field. Truex restarted sixth on lap 194 following the ninth caution flag, but by the end of Stage 2 he was outside the top 10.

Truex’s Toyota exhibited new life when he grabbed the lead on lap 253 and with 10 laps remaining in Stage 3 had constructed a 3.953-second lead over JGR teammate Kyle Busch. He won Stage 3 and never fell out of the top five the rest of the night.

Unlike 2016 when Truex completed the race in a record 3 hours 44 minutes and five seconds, this year’s 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600 took 4 hours 50 minutes and nine seconds to complete due to the 80 laps of caution.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 27 2019
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