Race Capsule: Truex Jr. breaks through in big way on racing's biggest day
Finally. With the cathartic sound of relief in his voice, Martin Truex Jr. wins his first race of the season, the fourth of his career, and first crown jewel event. He does so by absolutely obliterating the 40-car Coca-Cola 600 field in the 57th running of this NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Memorial Day classic. The dramatic moments were few and, really, it all built up to the checkered flag on lap 400.
Flag to Flag: Truex Jr. started on the pole in the No. 78 can't-miss-it-orange-and-camo Bass Pro Shops Chevy. The New Jersey driver was one of the fastest in each practice session as well, leading to the familiar narrative: Truex Jr. will dominate Sunday, but probably will lose the race when it is on the line. That vibe crescendoed through the last laps.
Truex Jr. essentially led every lap except for when he pitted four times during green flag sequences. The total laps led for Truex Jr. was 392 - yes - all but eight circuits. There were eight pit stops, four under green and four under yellow. Each one was a breath-holding moment for those waiting for poor fate to certainly strike the No. 78 team. It never did. And when the green flag flew on the four restarts, Truex Jr. always maintained the lead.
Jimmie Johnson (finished 3rd) and Kevin Harvick (2nd) closed in on Truex Jr. and seemed like they would catch him on the second-to-last green flag fun. Johnson had Truex Jr. caught with less than 100 laps to go in lapped traffic. But he got loose and Truex Jr. drove away.
Harvick rode the struggle bus in the first half of the
Joey Logano (9th) and last year's winner Carl Edwards (18th) both ran in the top 5 much of the night but each
Kyle Busch (33rd) remained winless at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Cup Series after struggling outside the top 15 early in the race and barely inside the top 10 late. He cut a tire and clobbered the wall with about eight laps to go, sending him to the garage. NASCAR, however, kept the race green and Truex Jr. maintained his lead. The No. 78 and Truex Jr.'s girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, must have nearly passed out when they saw Busch's car limping on the apron.
With the race green and no one closing, the next obstacle for Truex Jr. was making sure he had enough fuel to make the finish. Pretty much every car on the lead lap was at the edge of their 55-60-lap fuel window and Truex Jr. really slowed his pace to help seal the win. But with no much bad racing luck in recent years, NASCAR Nation collectively held their breath as the No. 78 took the white flag. But not only did Truex Jr. hold on to win his first-ever crown jewel race, he had plenty of gas left to do an impressive, smoky burnout and then drive the car to Victory Lane.
Top 10: Truex Jr.; Harvick; Johnson; Denny Hamlin (ran in top 10 all night, but never led); Brad Keselowski (fought hard with Harvick to stay in top 5 early and pretty much stayed there all race); Kurt Busch (faster in practice than during the race); Matt Kenseth (rallied from poor 27th starting spot); Chase Elliott (came back from speeding penalty on first pit stop); Logano (also rallied from speeding penalty, had a top 5 car); Ryan Newman (took a wave-around and then got back on sequence to steal another top 10)
The points: Harvick now leads Busch...Kurt Busch that is...by 36 points in the traditional standings, while Kyle Busch, who dropped two spots in the points, still leads the series with three wins. Ku. Busch has no
NSCS RaceTweet: Truex Jr. stomped the field and didn't choke, leading all but eight laps to win the 600 miles of Coke.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Truex Jr. - This choice is
North Korean Missile Dud: Joe Gibbs Racing - The year's dominant team only manifested itself up front to the tune of its satellite partner in Furniture Row Racing and Truex Jr. Hamlin,
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Joey Logano - There is no doubt that Team Penske is a slight step behind the Gibbs cars. Logano, who had six wins last season and five in 2015, is still winless the season and probably would not have won Sunday. But the speeding penalty could have derailed Logano's night and instead he persevered on long green flag runs and placed a solid 9th to hold down 9th in the standings, after getting wrecked in the last three points races.
Ghost Driver: Roush Fenway Racing - After promising qualifying runs of 6th (Greg Biffle), 3rd (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), and Trevor Bayne (10th), the Roush-
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: No one - Sorry, underdogs. You got dominated. Truex Jr., whose previous bad luck makes him an underdog and who drives for a former underdog team - the single-car Furniture Row Racing outfit - are the closest to underdogs overachieving at this race.
Wheel of Misfortune: Kasey Kahne - Once again, just like the All-Star Race, Kahne's night went sideways at his best track much too early. Kahne made an unscheduled pit stop on lap 13 because a chassis part was dragging and cutting his right-front tire. The team struggled to fix the problem and never had the caution flags to catch them up. The No. 5 Chevy rebounded to finish 22nd, but five laps down.
Jimmie Johnson Golden Horseshoe: We might as well put Truex Jr. here as well, considering he has had just about every bit of bad luck derail him in his racing career and was begging for it Sunday night. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (14th) and Kyle Larson (13th) each almost got caught by Brian Scott's (29th) spinning car on lap 115, but escaped unscathed.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: The attrition rate was non-existent in NASCAR's longest race. Only Reed Sorenson (a start and park effort) and Kyle Busch (crashed in the closing laps) failed to finish. No one lost an engine. No one else wrecked. For none of that to happen in 600 miles is unreal, especially considering how few people used to finish races a couple of decades ago. This is a testament to how advanced teams have become in developing engines and repairing
Georgia On My Mind: Chase Elliott was impressive in his second Coke 600. He started
David Ragan started 35th and languished in the back of the pack, also getting hit with a couple of pit penalties. He finished 31st. Sorenson placed 40th and started there in the No. 55 machine.
Saturday's Xfinity Series race was decent for the Georgia Gang. Brandon Jones finished 7th and is 6th in the standings now (
NXS RaceTweet: Kyle Larson snatches defeat from the jaws of victory and gets passed by Hamlin after a late caution. Hamlin wins at Charlotte.
And on this biggest race day of the year…
Indy 500 RaceTweet: Rookie Alexander Rossi stretches fuel to best Munoz and win the 100th Indianapolis 500. Montoya crashes and finishes last.
F1 Monaco RaceTweet: Lewis Hamilton enters Monaco with one lap led all season, but leads the most and wins the Grand Prix of Monaco for the second time.
Next: The Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series both race at Pocono this Sunday and Saturday, respectively. The Camping World Truck Series is off. Time to