Truex wins his way into second round of the Chase
Martin Truex Jr.’s luck prevailed again to win Chicagoland’s Chase-opening Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 Sprint Cup race after a thrilling overtime restart.
A late-race caution in the TMNT 400 at Chicagoland Speedway provided Truex with a second chance at his first win in the Chase on Sunday.
Truex led for the first time on Lap 22 for 30 circuits — and then the final two for his third win of the season and his sixth career Sprint Cup win.
“The racing gods want to make it difficult on us,” Truex said. “Man, this feels good. I’m a lucky guy to be able to drive this black 78. (Crew chief) Cole Pearn, Jazzy (Team Engineer Jeff Curtis), everybody on this team, the pit crew, Barney (Team Owner Visser) for giving us everything we need.
“This is the way we wanted to start the Chase. It feels awesome.”
Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
“It was awesome execution by the 22 team,” said Logano, who started ninth. "From every angle. We had a very fast race car and were awesome on pit road. You want to talk about pressure, not just Chase pressure, but coming down at the end of the race to try to win, they executed and had an awesome pit stop and beat the 11 out and ultimately gives us a second place finish. I couldn’t be more proud of the team and the way we executed and attacked today. We will take this momentum and run with it the next nine weeks.”
The race was slowed by four cautions for 22 laps. Debris triggered the first yellow on Lap 50 while Truex was in the lead. Kevin Harvick, who had just pitted, was trapped a lap down when Truex passed him. This is how close it was at the time of caution:
Truex forced to overcome some adversity
After pit stops, Truex was forced to pit on Lap 69 with a flat right front tire. He was second at the time and dropped to 21st, one lap off the lead.
Although he lost prime track position, Truex told himself, “Don’t give up, just keep digging.”
“It was a long way to go at that point,” Truex added. “On one hand it was like, ‘The bad luck is going to bite us again,’ on the other hand it was, “We have a lot of time to make it up.’ We were lucky we had it early. We had an awesome race car all day. We just kept working on it.
“In the middle of the race we weren’t that good. We got back in traffic and struggled a bit. Harvick run into us and bent our fender — I think on purpose — and I had to come back from that. So, all-in-all it’s just an unbelievable day and that’s what it’s going to take to win the championship.”
Johnson's race falls apart
Johnson was leading during the second caution on Lap 120 when Brian Scott spun off of Turn 4 to bring out the second caution. Truex was the beneficiary and lined up 19th. NASCAR waved the yellow a third time for debris on the backstretch on Lap 192, with rookie Elliott in the lead.
On Lap 234, Johnson, who led 118 laps, was busted for speeding on pit road and dropped from second to 18th.
Elliott had led 75 laps when Michael McDowell blew a tire on Lap 263. Elliott and 13 of the lead lap cars pitted with Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards remaining on the track. When the race went green on Lap 268, Edwards lined up behind Blaney with Truex on Kahne’s bumper. The No. 78 dove to the outside then passed Blaney on the backstretch for the lead when the race went green. Truex led the final two laps to score the first win in the Chase, take the points lead and transfer to the second round.
Denny Hamlin, Kahne, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10. For the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy it was the team’s first top 10 since the June Pocono race.
Truex has a one point lead over Keselowski (2049) in the Chase standings. Kyle Busch (2046) is third followed by Logano (2043), Elliott (2039), Kenseth (2038), Johnson (2037), Edwards (2032), Kurt Busch (2031), Jamie McMurray (2030) and Tony Stewart (2028).
This is the first time Truex has ever led the standings in 396 career starts.
|1||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||270||2:47'42||32||44|
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|Drivers||Martin Truex Jr.|
|Teams||Furniture Row Racing|