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Truex Jr. unbeatable in Fontana

Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway
Sunday, March 18, 2018

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Martin Truex Jr. was untouchable
Martin Truex Jr. was untouchable

Martin Truex Jr. was no match for the rest of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Truex earned his first victory of the season from the pole at the 2-mile Fontana, California track, sweeping both stages en route to his 16th career series victory. It also serves as the first victory for Toyota in 2018.

Leading a race-high 125 laps of the 200-lap race, Truex took the lead away from second-place starter Kyle Busch on Lap 169 and sailed to the checkered flag.

“Just fighting hard. Just never gave up on it,” Truex told FOX in Victory Lane. “I knew we had a really good race car, honestly, after the first adjustment we made on the car. Once we got some clean air, man, this thing was unbelievable.”

Defending race winner Kyle Larson finished second, followed by Busch and Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

Kevin Harvick, winner of the past three events, saw his chances of winning a fourth consecutive race go up in smoke on Lap 37 when he made contact with Kyle Larson on the backstretch and hit the outside wall. Harvick drove his damaged No. 4 Busch Beer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to a 35th-place finish.

Trevor Bayne also found trouble on Lap 108 after slamming his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford into the wall in Turn 4, ending his day and finishing 37th.

MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing

How were you able to hold off the 18 today?

“We were just fighting hard and never gave up on it. I knew we really had a good racecar after the first adjustment of the race. The thing just came alive. From there it was just about managing my tires and being smart. We had a little trouble getting beat out of the pits and that was tough. At one run we fell back to fifth and then we needed to work our way back up. I really just needed to care of my front tires and once we got some clean air this thing was unbelievable. I just have to thank Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and Barney (Visser, team owner) and everybody back in Denver. I was out at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) this week and they gave me this hat. It must be good luck. Thank you guys for great engines. Obviously this is a good one today and thanks to Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY, Toyota and TRD again, Auto Owners, Furniture Row Denver Mattress, Tracker Boats and everybody. Just everybody that makes this possible. This is dream come true. People kept asking me when are you going to win again? Well, here you go.”

How do you keep your poise as a driver?

“It’s all you can think about. What you can do to win a race. When you have those things happen, there is nothing you can do about it but dig deep and try to find a way. And for us today, we just had a good enough car. We were able to make it happen. The Goodyear tires were great today. Thanks to the fans and Monster everybody that supports the series. It’s unbelievable to be able to do this for a living.”

Kyle Larson beat Kyle Busch for 2nd
Kyle Larson beat Kyle Busch for 2nd
Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy

How does it feel to be back in Victory Lane?

“It feels great. It’s good to be here. I am really proud of my team and everybody here. We’ve started the season out strong. Everyone kept asking when we were going to win and we hadn’t won any stages yet. And I said don’t worry, we are close. We just need to figure it out a little bit. And today, what a damn hotrod. This thing was unbelievable. Just thanks to all the guys and everybody at Toyota, TRD, Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY, Auto Owners and all of our sponsors and helps supports this deal. It’s a dream come true and this team is unbelievable.”

Did you have any idea your car was going to be this good?

“I knew we were close yesterday but we needed to get better to win. Cole, Jazzy (Jeff Curtis, lead engineer for Furniture Row Racing) and Pete (Rondeau, director of competition for Furniture Row Racing) and those guys really came up with a game plan last night. We changed a few things and really they had to hook both corners together. We were really loose off Turn 4 yesterday and really tight off Turn 2. We just got better off 4 and 2, and when you do something big like that, it makes a huge difference. This thing was flawless.”

Is it nice to be a victim of your own success right now?

“As long as we’re still winning, I guess it is. You just never know in this sport. Things change so fast and you have the off season and you never know if you will lose your mojo. For us, this group works hard and we get a lot of support from Toyota. We have a great partnership with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) which certainly makes this possible. Without all of the people involved, we wouldn’t be able to do it. It takes so much. I am just glad we were able to come back here this season and start off strong and consistent, putting ourselves in that conversation. And hopefully we can take advantage of some more along the way.”

Results

Fin Str No. Driver Team Laps Pts Status
1 1 78 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota 200 60 Running
2 3 42 Kyle Larson DC Solar Chevrolet 200 43 Running
3 2 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota 200 51 Running
4 11 2 Brad Keselowski Wurth Ford 200 49 Running
5 6 22 Joey Logano Auto Club of Southern California Ford 200 45 Running
6 25 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 200 39 Running
7 4 20 Erik Jones SiriusXM Toyota 200 39 Running
8 8 12 Ryan Blaney PPG Ford 200 29 Running
9 33 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet 200 38 Running
10 5 3 Austin Dillon Dow Coating Chevrolet 200 27 Running
11 26 14 Clint Bowyer Rush Truck Centers Ford 199 30 Running
12 27 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 199 25 Running
13 28 88 Alex Bowman Nationwide Chevrolet 199 24 Running
14 7 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford 199 27 Running
15 29 24 William Byron # AXALTA Chevrolet 199 23 Running
16 31 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 199 21 Running
17 15 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 199 20 Running
18 16 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Ford 199 19 Running
19 14 21 Paul Menard Menards/FVP Ford 199 18 Running
20 19 43 Darrell Wallace Jr. # Farmer John Chevrolet 199 17 Running
21 9 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet 199 16 Running
22 32 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickList Chevrolet 199 15 Running
23 30 19 Daniel Suarez ARRIS Toyota 199 14 Running
24 34 95 Kasey Kahne WRL General Contractors Chevrolet 199 13 Running
25 21 38 David Ragan 1000Bowls.com Ford 199 12 Running
26 22 34 Michael McDowell Love's Travel Stops Ford 199 11 Running
27 17 13 Ty Dillon Twisted Tea Chevrolet 198 10 Running
28 37 72 Cole Whitt SoCal Chevy Chevrolet 198 9 Running
29 36 15 Ross Chastain(i) LowT Center Chevrolet 198 0 Running
30 12 37 Chris Buescher Healthy Choice Power Bowls Chevrolet 197 7 Running
31 18 32 Matt DiBenedetto Can-Am/Wholey Ford 196 6 Running
32 20 23 Gray Gaulding Earthwater Toyota 194 5 Running
33 35 51 Timmy Hill(i) Bubba Burgers Chevrolet 193 0 Running
34 24 55 * Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 193 3 Running
35 10 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Beer Ford 191 2 Running
36 23 00 Jeffrey Earnhardt VRX Simulators Chevrolet 189 1 Running
37 13 6 Trevor Bayne Perfomance Plus Ford 108 1 Accident

Time of Race

2 Hrs, 42 Mins, 41 Secs

Average Speed

147.526 MP

Margin of Victory:

11.685 Seconds

Stage 1 Top 10:          78,18,22,2,48,42,41,20,14,11

Stage 2 Top 10:          78,2,18,11,20,22,48,42,14,24

Race Comments:

Martin Truex Jr. won the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, his 16th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. Prior to the start of the race, the following cars dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for reasons indicated: #23, 88 – engine, 19 – back up car and 34 – rear gear.

Lead Changes:

5 for 21 laps: Laps: 39-42 (#4 Incident in Turn 2 [37]); 62-66 (Stage 1 Conclusion [15]); 110-113 (#6 Incident in Turn 4 [31]); 122-126 (Stage 2 Conclusion

[21]); 130-132 (#38 Incident in Turn 2 [13]).

16 among 7 drivers: M. Truex Jr. 1-10; Kyle Busch 11-28; J. McMurray 29; Kyle Busch 30; M. Truex Jr. 31-63; J. Logano 64-72; M. Truex Jr. 73-89; Kyle Busch 90-93; M. Truex Jr. 94-123; Kyle Busch 124-130; K. Kahne 131; W. Byron # 132; Kyle Busch 133-160; M. Truex Jr. 161-163; D. Hamlin 164; Kyle Busch 165-168; M. Truex Jr. 169-200.

American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award: Martin Truex Jr, #78                        Fastest Lap: Martin Truex Jr, #78

Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race: Toyota Racing Development (TRD), #18 Moog Go the Extra Mile: Denny Hamlin, #11 crew chief Michael Wheeler, -0.202 seconds

Sunoco Rookie of the Race: William Byron, #24

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series

Next Race: Mar. 25, 2018 - Martinsville Speedway

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