Truex Prevails in Kansas

Truex Jr. started from pole and was strong all day
Truex Jr. started from pole and was strong all day
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Martin Truex Jr. rolled to victory on an eventful Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, avoiding the pitfalls that snagged other championship contenders as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs trimmed its field from 12 drivers to eight.

Truex led 91 of 267 laps in the Hollywood Casino 400, leading the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota team to its seventh win of the season. Truex rallied from a restart-violation penalty and an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel to notch a season sweep of both events at the 1.5-mile track, sealing the 14th win of his career in NASCAR’s premier series.

“I can’t believe how this day went and that’s why you never give up, ’cause you never know what could happen," Truex said.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch finished second, 2.284 seconds behind at the checkered flag. Playoff contenders Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin completed the top five in the final event of the three-race Round of 12.

Four drivers were knocked from championship contention based on their efforts in the three-race round. Only pole-starter Truex and Brad Keselowski had automatic berths into the Round of 8 based on their wins at Charlotte (Truex) and Talladega (Keselowski) earlier in the round.

Hamlin, Elliott, Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson joined Truex and Keselowski among the qualifiers for berths in the Round of 8, which begins next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were eliminated.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]All four eliminated drivers were involved in caution periods, including a 13-car pileup on Lap 197 that ended the day for both Kenseth and McMurray. Kenseth was able to drive away, but his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 crew was penalized for having too many men over the pit wall while his car was on the crash clock. He wound up 37th, with McMurray — who also wrecked last week at Talladega — in 34rd.

Larson’s fate in missing the Round of 8 cut was sealed earlier as he tumbled from third in the standings to ninth after retiring with engine failure, completing just 73 laps. His Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet was credited with 39th place, Larson’s worst finish of the season.

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, leads the field towards turn one after taking the green flag to start the Hollywood Casino 400
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, leads the field towards turn one after taking the green flag to start the Hollywood Casino 400

“I guess I’m not stunned because freak things happen in every sport," Larson said. “I mean, you look at every year in the past and a lot of times, most every time at least in the new Playoff format era not always does the best team win. Not saying we are the best team, but we have been one of the contenders all season long. So, I’m not stunned, because it is a long 10-race Playoff season, so anything can happen, but we have had a solid Playoffs. We have been consistent and just now got bit."

Stenhouse was also dropped from the playoff picture after making a significant scrape with the Turn 3 wall on Lap 174. That left him well off the pace and saddled him with a 29th-place finish, 10 laps down.

Johnson kept his bid for a record eighth series championship alive by surviving a pair of solo spins in quick succession — on Lap 187 and Lap 192 — to advance in the playoffs. He threaded his way through the multi-car crash moments later and finished 11th in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing

Finishing Position: 1st

How were you able to win this race?

“Just couldn’t believe some of the things that were happening and thought there was no way that we were going to win that race at some point. That first restart violation really caught me by surprise and that hurt, but that wasn’t the last blow we had to take. There was the loose wheel we had to pit for under green and getting a lap down and being able to stay out through that last stage and get that lap back was crucial, without that, we didn’t have a shot. Then we got back mid-pack and had a couple really good restarts to get some track position and then really fought the car through that part of the race and had to make some big adjustments and I felt like at the end we got dialed in pretty good. I’m pretty happy with that."

How do you feel about the final three races before Homestead?

“I feel good about all of them, but Martinsville comes first so we’re focused on that one the most. We have the first pit stall already, which is a good start for that. We have to go there and qualify well and hope to race well all day. If we can just continue to not have any major problems, we should be good to get to Miami and then go have some fun there."

What strategy did you and Cole Pearn employ in the late stages of the race?

“There was no real strategy to it, we stayed out that one time and got track position and then really it was just passing cars. I had a couple really good restarts on the outside making it three wide on the outside going into one and I think I went from 14th to seventh on one of them and up to sixth on the other. Definitely those restarts were huge for us. I’m just really proud of this whole team, everybody here and this whole group – both the 77 and 78 teams, everybody at Furniture Row for coming in there and winning this one for Jim (Watson). Definitely thinking about his family tonight and hopefully they’re hanging on pretty good."

Talk about this win for you.

“Just can’t say enough about all these guys on this Furniture Row / Bass Pro Toyota. Just really proud of them. Definitely racing with heavy hearts today with losing Jim (Watson) last night. Want to send our condolences to his family and all of his friends. He was a heck of a guy and a great worker and put a lot of speed in these Furniture Row Toyotas, so glad we could get him one here. Excited to get another one here at Kansas. This feels really awesome. It’s really Furniture Row’s home track. It just feels really good to finally get – to finally get another one here. We got that one in the spring after so many heart breaks and then today it looked like it was going to happen and we just persevered."

Were you channeling Jim Watson during that red flag when you said you were going to win this?

“I sure was. I was channeling something. A lot of it was this team and the fight in us – in all of us. Definitely thinking about Jim and his family as well. It’s crazy how these things work out, but you just got to give your best effort all the time and never give up and just push as hard as you can all the time and that’s what we did today and it worked."

A lot of ups and downs during the race. Talk about everything you went through during this race.

“I can’t believe how this day went and that’s why you never give up, cause you never know what could happen. Certainly thinking about Ed – or Jim (Watson), I’m sorry, and his family. It’s crazy how things happen like that. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) texted me last night at 11 o’clock, said he was at the hospital and I’m like ‘What are you talking about?’. It’s tragic. He was a huge part of this team, fabricating for both cars at the race track and making sure we get through tech which is quite a challenge at times. Just definitely racing with heavy hearts, we were all talking about him before the race, just wanted to do good for him. I know he’d love to be here celebrating with us. Proud of everybody just for sticking with me and never giving up. Today was definitely a challenge but fast cars prevail I guess and good teams prevail. Just got to thank everybody and again the Watson family, thinking about you guys. You’re in our thoughts. Bass Pro Camry was just amazing today once we got it dialed in at the end, so happy, just happy."


Fin St No. Driver Team Laps Status
1 1 78 Martin Truex Jr. (P) Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota 267 Running
2 15 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford 267 Running
3 40 21 Ryan Blaney (P) Omnicraft Auto Parts Ford 267 Running
4 14 24 Chase Elliott (P) NAPA Chevrolet 267 Running
5 4 11 Denny Hamlin (P) FedEx Express Toyota 267 Running
6 20 37 Chris Buescher Scott Towels Chevrolet 267 Running
7 19 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nationwide Chevrolet 267 Running
8 2 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Jimmy John's Ford 267 Running
9 25 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 267 Running
10 7 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M's Halloween Toyota 267 Running
11 12 48 Jimmie Johnson (P) Lowe's Chevrolet 267 Running
12 23 27 Paul Menard Richmond/Menards Chevrolet 267 Running
13 10 2 Brad Keselowski (P) Miller Lite Ford 267 Running
14 11 3 Austin Dillon DOW Chevrolet 267 Running
15 21 5 Kasey Kahne UniFirst Chevrolet 267 Running
16 29 13 Ty Dillon # GEICO Chevrolet 267 Running
17 27 38 David Ragan Ford 267 Running
18 16 95 Michael McDowell TWD Chevrolet 267 Running
19 9 14 Clint Bowyer Haas Automation Ford 267 Running
20 28 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Ford 267 Running
21 17 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 267 Running
22 30 32 Matt DiBenedetto Can-Am/Kappa Ford 267 Running
23 31 34 Landon Cassill Love's Travel Stops Ford 265 Running
24 35 72 Cole Whitt TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet 263 Running
25 37 15 Reed Sorenson Low T Centers Chevrolet 263 Running
26 38 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt hulu Chevrolet 261 Running
27 34 23 Corey LaJoie # Dr Pepper Toyota 261 Running
28 33 55 * Gray Gaulding # Harrah's North Kansas City Toyota 259 Running
29 24 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (P) Fastenal Ford 256 Accident
30 36 51 * BJ McLeod(i) Spoonful of Music Foundation Chevrolet 254 Running
31 32 83 * Brett Moffitt(i) Earthwater Toyota 238 Running
32 26 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickLIst Chevrolet 232 Accident
33 18 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 203 Accident
34 8 1 Jamie McMurray (P) Cessna Chevrolet 198 Accident
35 6 77 Erik Jones # 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota 197 Accident
36 5 19 Daniel Suarez # ARRIS Toyota 197 Accident
37 3 20 Matt Kenseth (P) DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota 197 Accident
38 22 10 Danica Patrick Code 3 Associates Ford 197 Accident
39 13 42 Kyle Larson (P) Credit One Bank Chevrolet 73 Engine
40 39 00 * Derrike Cope StarCom Fiber Chevrolet 35 Handling

Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 11 Mins, 57 Secs.

Average Speed: 125.189 MPH

Margin of Victory: 2.284 Seconds

Stage 1 Top 10: 18,4,11,21,1,48,24,78,20,77
Stage 2 Top 10: 11,4,2,20,18,77,1,21,24,48

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