Truex Jr. unbeatable in Fontana
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?
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.”
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.”
Time of Race
2 Hrs, 42 Mins, 41 Secs
Margin of Victory:
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
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.
5 for 21 laps: Laps: 39-42 (#4 Incident in Turn 2 ); 62-66 (Stage 1 Conclusion ); 110-113 (#6 Incident in Turn 4 ); 122-126 (Stage 2 Conclusion
); 130-132 (#38 Incident in Turn 2 ).
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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