Truex Jr. wins in Kansas
"Finally," shouted Martin Truex Jr on his radio after taking the checkered flag to capture the Go Bowling 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.
It was no doubt a redemption win for Truex who led a race high of 104 laps in his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota. But leading the most laps at the spring race in Kansas has never been a problem for the Furniture Row Racing driver.
In three previous spring races at Kansas Truex also led the most laps on the 1.5-mile oval. What was different Saturday night in the Sunflower State was that he led the most important lap and that being the final one.
The closing laps tested Truex’s resolve. He appeared to have the race under control, but with 24 laps remaining the first of three late cautions were called.
It all came down to the restarts, and that’s when Truex was at his best, especially on the final restart with two laps remaining. He took the inside lane, and pulled off a delicate restart with precision. He never looked back as he sped home to victory for the first time in Kansas. His margin of victory over runner-up Brad Keselowksi was 1.1 seconds.
“When the pressure was on, when the money was on the line, we made the right moves, and everything worked out,” said Truex. “I knew if I didn't come out of those restarts with the lead, I probably wasn't going to win.”
“Our Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota was really fast, but if we didn't get the lead on the restarts, it probably took us at least 20 laps to get good enough to pass those guys for the lead. The leader had a huge advantage tonight, so to get the lead on those restarts was big, and I knew that was going to be the race, and luckily we were able to make it happen. It was great to give Auto-Owners a victory in its first race as a primary sponsor this season. We also won last year’s Southern 500 (Darlington) with the blue Auto-Owners Toyota.”
When asked how he felt to win in Kansas after so many close calls Truex said, "It’s definitely been a thorn in our side - that’s for sure. You know for years and years even before I was with this team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal. Proud to get these guys back in victory lane. This is our home race track -- the guys from Colorado. Appreciate all the fans. We got a lot of fans from Colorado here today. I met a bunch of them before the race and hopefully they’re all psyched.”
The victory was the second of the season for Truex and the ninth of his career. Seven of his Cup victories have been with the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team.
But with all the jubilation of the victory, Truex was also reflective about the race accident that injured Aric Almirola.
“Yeah, that's the worst, you never want to see it,” said Truex. “Aric is a friend of mine. He volunteered to be in our fashion show next week, Catwalk for a Cause, our big foundation fundraiser. He and his wife, great people, family guy, and just such a nice family and such a nice guy. I was really scared when I saw that and worried for him, obviously. I hope it was just a safety precaution to get him out on a stretcher. I hope he's doing well. Definitely thinking about Aric and his family.”
Truex qualified third and ran in the top three for the majority of the 267-lap race and led six different times, including the final 19 laps.
He remains second in driver points but leads the series with 15 playoff bonus points. He also picked up an additional 17 standing points for finishing second in the first stage and third in the second.
Following Truex and second-place Keselowski to the checkered flag were Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne.
The race had 21 lead changes among nine drivers and there were 15 cautions for 61 laps. The race was also red flagged for 28 minutes.
The race was red-flagged for 27 minutes, 41 seconds following a Lap 199 wreck involving Joey Logano, Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola. Something broke in Logano’s car, sending him hard into Patrick’s No. 10 Ford. The two collided into the outside wall, and a trailing Almirola couldn’t slow down in time, plowing into Logano’s No. 22.
Almirola was airlifted from the track to an area hospital for further observation, but was awake and alert.
RELATED: Watch video of the incident
Kyle Busch won Stage 1, his second stage win of the season. Blaney, who started from the pole, emerged from an eventful Stage 2 that included four cautions for his third stage win of 2017.
The Monster Energy Series takes a pause from points racing next week as the circuit travels to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday’s Monster Energy All-Star Race (8 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It’s a two-week homecoming with the Coca-Cola 600 following on May 28 at Charlotte.
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
Did this one mean more because of the challenges you’ve had here at Kansas in the past?
“Man, you know I don’t know. They’re all so special honestly. These races are so hard to win. Any of those restarts I could’ve got beat on, something could’ve happened. You just never know. I’m just really -- so proud of everybody on this team and you know all my guys. Auto-Owners Insurance, their first race with us this year. We won the Southern 500 with this car and now here. It’s amazing. Just got to think everybody at Auto-Owners, Furniture Row, Bass Pro, Denver Mattress, Furniture Row, Tracker Boats, WIX Filters, 5-Hour Energy. It’s just amazing. It’s awesome.”
Were you concerned about the late restarts?
“I felt like if I could get out front on those restarts, I’d be fine. If I came out second or third after a lap or two it took me a long time to get good enough to pass those guys. I knew I had to go. I knew I had to make it happen. There’s no guarantee that you can make it happen, but we did, so it was pretty awesome tonight. Thanks to TRD, Toyota. Awesome horse power. Man, just everybody. Everybody go enter the true experience there. The Auto-Owners true experience and come to a race with us. It’ll be awesome.”
How does it feel to find victory lane at Kansas Speedway?
“It’s always good to get a nice beer shower, 5-Hour Energy and whatever else they’re throwing on us here. Pretty awesome. Awesome day. Awesome weekend. This team rocks, man, they’re so good. We just stuck with it all night. We had an awesome race car. There’s times there we looked like we weren’t going to have a shot at it. We just kept fighting and made it happen.”
“You just got to time it right. I’ve been a victim of the same thing. That kid (Ryan Blaney) is good, man. He’s going to win a ton of races. He’s really talented and their cars are fast right now. You do 10 restarts, eight of them you get right, two of them you screw up. You just hope the ones you screw up aren’t for the win. Today, we were able to get those ones right when it mattered. You know what can I say, just an awesome team effort.”
How much did the car and the track change starting in the daylight and transferring to the night time?
“The groove moved around quite a bit. Early in the race we seen the very high groove got really fast on those long runs and we had to adapt and be able to do that and we got pretty good up there and then the next thing you know we couldn’t run up there anymore. It was too slow and you had to run the middle. You know at the end the bottom was good at times too, so just moving the groove around -- we didn’t change our car a whole lot throughout the race, really, just adapted to the race track. Moved my lines around and tried to work on it wherever I could.”
Kansas Speedway has been the Achilles Heel for you. What’s it mean to you and this team to finally get here?
“It feels great. It’s definitely been a thorn in our side. That’s for sure. You know for years and years even before I was with this team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal. Proud to get these guys back in victory lane. This is our home race track -- the guys from Colorado. Appreciate all the fans. We got a lot of fans from Colorado here today. I met a bunch of them before the race and hopefully they’re all psyched.”
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