Martin Truex Jr wins NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Championship

By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Martin Truex Jr. held off Kyle Busch to win the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Championship on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

It was the eighth win of the season for Truex.

It was the first Monster Energy Series title for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing as well. It was the second Championship 4 appearance for Truex and the No. 78 team — he finished fourth in 2015.

Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski were each gunning for a second series championship, the three having won previous titles in 2012 (Keselowski), ’14 (Harvick) and ’15 (Busch).

Truex Jr.’s title capped an incredible run for the No. 78 team that also endured bouts of heartbreak this year. Among them were the recurrence of cancer in Truex Jr.’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex; the sudden death of a longtime friend of of crew chief Cole Pearn; the death of team member Jim Watson during Kansas race weekend; and most recently, team owner Barney Visser’s heart attack that kept him away from the track for the final two races of 2017. It helped make Sunday’s conquest all the more meaningful, and an emotional Truex emerged from his car in Victory Lane, saying the victory was for Sherry, who is recovering from cancer, and everyone in the Furniture Row Racing family. “It’s just overwhelming,” a tearful Truex said in Victory Lane. “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that we couldn’t run 20th, to be here — I never thought this day would come, and to be here is so unbelievable.”

Truex Jr.’s title capped an incredible run for the No. 78 team that also endured bouts of heartbreak this year. Among them were the recurrence of cancer in Truex Jr.’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex; the sudden death of a longtime friend of of crew chief Cole Pearn; the death of team member Jim Watson during Kansas race weekend; and most recently, team owner Barney Visser’s heart attack that kept him away from the track for the final two races of 2017. 

It helped make Sunday’s conquest all the more meaningful, and an emotional Truex emerged from his car in Victory Lane, saying the victory was for Sherry, who is recovering from cancer, and everyone in the Furniture Row Racing family. 

“It’s just overwhelming,” a tearful Truex said in Victory Lane. “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that we couldn’t run 20th, to be here — I never thought this day would come, and to be here is so unbelievable.”

Truex had the No. 78 Toyota out front for 78 laps on Sunday, bringing his season total of laps led to a career-best 2,253, also tops in the series.

With an excellent long-run car, Busch slipped to fourth after the final restart on Lap 234 of 267 and needed nine laps to pass the stubborn No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano. Seven laps later, Busch slipped past fellow Championship 4 contender Kevin Harvick into second and set his sights on Truex.

Busch closed rapidly, but Truex found a line that allowed him to maintain an edge that shrank to as little as two car lengths. But Busch never could pull alongside his fellow Camry driver, and Truex inched away over the last four circuits.

“I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have today, and (with) 20 (laps) to go, I thought I was done — they were all better than me on the long run all day long,” Truex said. “I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use, and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen.

Kyle Larson finished third, closely trailing the championship battle after moving past Harvick for third on Lap 252. Harvick came home fourth, after debris from David Starr’s Chevrolet punched a hole in the nose of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

“I was just really loose the whole last run,” Harvick said. “When it started to get dark, we started to get tight in the corner, and then we got a hole in the nose. We got that fixed and just couldn’t quite get it where we needed to be to make good times.

“Some runs we fell off. Some runs we were tight on entry. There at the end we were just too loose.”

Chase Elliott and Joey Logano ran fifth and sixth, respectively. Playoff driver Brad Keselowski finished sixth, ending the season fourth in the series standings.

Busch opted for a one-pit-stop strategy during the final stage of the race and appeared headed for the title until his brother, Kurt Busch, spun in Turn 4 on Lap 227 to bring out the fifth and final caution of the event and bunch the field for the restart on Lap 234.

“Yeah, it wasn’t quite what we wanted there at the end,” Busch said. “I thought we had a really great race car. Especially on the long runs, we were really, really good. Just came down to there at the end, not having enough tire when I got to the 78.

Racing Notes:

• Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 25th in his final run in the No. 88 Chevy. …

• Danica Patrick cut a tire and clobbered the Turn 2 wall on Lap 142 in her final trip in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. She plans to race in the Cup series for the final time in the 2018 Daytona 500. … Patrick also collected Kasey Kahne in her wreck. Kahne ran his final race for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday and will move to the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet next season. …

• Truex’s teammate, Erik Jones, was crowned Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the series after finishing 21st. Jones will take Matt Kenseth’s place in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota next season. Kenseth finished eighth Sunday in his final ride in the car. He was found with two unsecured lug nuts during post-race inspection. Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford was also found with one lug nut not safe and secure.

Editor's Note: Information from NASCAR Media was used in this story.
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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards. Frederick is enrolled online at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's a third of the way though the Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation will be in March 2018.