Truex Jr. Rallies to Win at Pocono
A combination of superior driving and sound pit strategy propelled Martin Truex Jr. to victory Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
The victory was the second of the season for Truex and 17th of his career. It was also Furniture Row Racing’s 16th career win as a team. Truex moved from fifth to fourth in the driver point standings.
Truex, who had runner-up finishes in the last two races at Kansas and Charlotte, came out of the gate strong, winning the first stage at the 2.5-mile triangular track. He then had to rally back to the front after a lengthy pit stop that sent him to 14th place at the start of the second stage.
Truex’s No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota bolted through the field to finish fourth in the second stage. From that point on the Furniture Row Racing driver was a force to be reckoned with as he battled NASCAR’s best -- Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the win.
Truex led the final 21 laps (140 to 160) and crossed the finish line 2.496 seconds ahead of Larson. Busch and Harvick finished third and fourth respectively.
The critical part of the race came during the last three cautions when decisions had to be made on whether to pit or not to pit for fresh tires. Pearn made the call to stay out after each of those cautions and the strategy paid off.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation,” said Truex, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion. “Cole said stay out and I stayed out. I put a lot of faith in him in making those pit calls. You know, 99 percent of the time, he is right. Honestly, we were really fast in practice. We weren’t quite as fast as some guys. On scuffs we were really fast. We got that clean air out front and we were able to check out.”
Truex did a masterful job on the late restarts to maintain the lead.
“You’re always concerned on restarts at Pocono,” Truex explained. “So much can happen on those. We were lucky to be able to get a good one. Once we could get clear in Turn 1, we had a fast enough car in clean air that we could hold them off. Those restarts are always nerve-wracking. You never know who can get a push from behind and get a run on you. We were close to Larson on that last one and that could have made it a lot more difficult. Luckily, had great horsepower from TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and I was able to get out front and make it happen.
“Thanks to everybody here at TRD, Toyota, Denver Mattress and Furniture Row. And Bass Pro Shops and 5-hour ENERGY for allowing us to do what we do. Auto-Owners Insurance, TRD, the guys at the track and everyone at the shop back in Denver. It’s a dream to drive these race cars.”
The balance of the top-10 finishers were: Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott.
The race had six cautions for 23 laps and there were 11 lead changes among seven drivers.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is Sunday June 10 at Michigan International Speedway.
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
Were you concerned on the restart with seven to go?
“Yes, you’re always concerned on restarts at Pocono. So much can happen on those. We were luckily able to get a good one. I just can’t say enough about everyone on this team. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and all of the guys. We did a good job last night. It’s been a really good weekend overall. I feel like we’re getting back to where we were last year. Just thankful for them. Everyone in Denver. Everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development). Everyone at Bass Pro Shops and 5-hour ENERGY for all their support this season on this race car. Thanks for Auto Owners for coming on board and Denver Mattress. You can’t forget about all these guys. Tracker Boats and all our friends up here at Pocono. This is a heck of a day. The 4, 18 and 78, we went at it all day long and coming out on top is pretty awesome. Thanks to Toyota Racing and all the guys out in Costa Mesa.”
What does it say about your team to go out there and get a win here today?
“It’s always fun to win. But especially when you beat the best guys out there. These two guys (Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick) were so fast today. Honestly, we were all really equal. It was a matter of who could get out front. The 4 and I stayed on tires. We felt like in practice we were really fast on scuffs. Cole made a good call to stay out and once I got in clean air, this thing was a rocket ship.”
Tell us about the last pit stop.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation. Cole said stay out and I stayed out. I put a lot of faith in him and making those pit calls. You know, 99 percent of the time, he is right. Honestly, we were really fast in practice. We weren’t quite as fast as some guys. On scuffs we were really fast. We got that clean air out front, we were able to check out. Thanks to everybody here at TRD, Denver Mattress and Furniture Row. And Bass Pro Shops and 5-hour ENERGY for allowing us to do what we do. Auto Owners, TRD and everyone who makes it possible. It’s a dream to drive these race cars. Thanks to everyone at Toyota and TRD Engines.”
What made the difference in holding off Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson?
“Getting a good restart overall was good. Once we could get clear in Turn 1, we had a fast enough car in clean air that we could hold them off. Those restarts are always nerve-wracking. You never know who can get a push from behind and get a run on you. We were close to Larson on that last one and that could have made it a lot more difficult. Luckily, had great horsepower from TRD and I was able to get out front and make it happen.”
When you restarted 14th, what did you have to do to make it back to the front?
“Be patient. Our car was great on the long-run. There was a lot of cars on the short-run that were as good as we were. It’s so hard to pass here at Pocono. We had to pick them off one at a time and we stayed patient. I tried to save my tires a little bit and by the end of the run, we found ourselves fourth. It was a great comeback and just a strong race car.”
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