Martin Truex Jr.’s luck is turning as he embraces NASCAR’s new race format

Photo by Harold Hinson Photography

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — Martin Truex Jr.’s luck is starting to change, and he’s enjoying racing in stages, too.

The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota cashed in on Brad Keselowski’s misfortune to win the Kobalt 400 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

It seemed like Keselowski was headed for the win until he radioed in that something had broken on his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Truex then passed a slowed Keselowski on the penultimate lap to collect his eighth victory in the Cup series.

“The 2 car got out front, and that last restart, really thought we were going to run second,” Truex  said. “Got a little bit lucky with him having an issue and got the win.

“But honestly been on the other side of those things plenty of times, so definitely feels good to take advantage of somebody else’s issue for once and go to victory lane.”

Truex had his fair share of bad luck last season when numerous wins slipped away. He led a series-high 1,809 with only four wins in 2016. In the spring Kansas race, he led 172 of 267 laps, but settled for a 14th-place finish due to a lug nut mishap on his final pit stop.

“This is the first time we’ve really taken advantage of somebody else’s issue,” he said.

So is his luck finally changing?

“I sure hope so,” Truex said.  “Cole [Pearn, crew chief] and Barney [Visser, car owner] were in disbelief.  I have been driving for them for about four years now, I guess.  If they only seen all the other times this has happened in my career.  I could go way back.  I think I’ve definitely paid my dues, but it was just one of those deals.”

Truex didn’t exactly catch all the break. His first win at Las Vegas was overshadowed by a brawl on pit road involving Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. The New Jersey native said he was unaware of the tussle following an incident when Logano’s No. 22 Ford slid up into Busch’s No. 18 Toyota as the two battled for third place on the last lap.

“No, I didn’t see anything,”  Truex said. “I heard about it a little bit, that there was a little bit of a fight that broke out.  I honestly have no idea on the details, but I’m sure I’ll hear about it and see it on Twitter when I get my phone and be able to read about it on the way home tonight.”

Truex though is embracing the stage racing introduced this season. He won every segment on Sunday and was there to pounce and cap off the final one.

“I think stage racing has been really fun so far, I think,” said Truex, who is the first to sweep a race this season.  “You know, I was a proponent of it before the season started, but we all didn’t really know how it was going to play out, and I think it’s been definitely ‑‑ it’s been a lot of fun.  It’s been exciting.

Unlike last season when Truex dominated races with nothing to show at the end, this year it’s paying off. He led 150 of the 267 laps and had himself a 60-point day.

“I think the coolest part is if you run really good, you get rewarded even if you have a bad finish for a wreck or something bad happens,” he said.  “I think that’s probably a cool part of it. That really would have helped us last year.

“We ran so good and led so many races, and always didn’t get the finish we probably deserved or thought we should have gotten, and so it’s cool to get rewarded for running good and pushing hard and being up at the front of the pack more consistently than other guys.  I like it a lot.  I think it’s been a lot of fun.”

 

 

 

 

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