November 20, 2017
Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dream season with a tenacious late-race drive to capture the NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Truex, who led four times for 78 laps in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, held off a hard-charging Kyle Busch while leading the final 51 laps. His margin of victory over Busch was 0.681 seconds. Truex needed to finish ahead of Busch and the two other Championship 4 drivers — Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski — to claim the season title.
The victory was the eighth of the season for Truex, who now owns 15 career Cup wins. Thirteen of those wins have been with the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team.
The 2017 season for Furniture Row Racing also saw the No. 78 team win the regular season championship and Erik Jones of the No. 77 team win Rookie of the Year.
Truex was no doubt deserving of the title. In the 10-playoff races he won four times and scored nine top fives. The only non top-five finish was 23rd at Talladega where he was involved in a multicar accident. His overall playoff average finish was 4.3. Take away the Talladega result, his average finish in the other nine races was 2.2.
When the white flag waved at Homestead Truex knew the championship was his, and when he crossed the finish line the emotion of the herculean moment left him speechless.
“I balled like a baby, I couldn’t talk,” said Truex. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over and times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the people who mattered did — my fans, my family and then when I got with this team they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”
Truex added, “This means the world. (team owner) Barney Visser 11 years of working towards this goal. He couldn’t be here tonight and we’re all thinking of him. Definitely wish he could have been here. I know he’s probably as much in shock as I am. Jim Watson, Cole’s best friend (Jacob Damen) and Sherry. This one is for all of you!”
Truex, started the 267-lap race second. He had some handling issues early, but as the race wore on, his Toyota Camry found more grip in a lane he never ran in the past on the 1.5-mile oval.
“It’s the dumbest lane I’ve ever run here, but it worked, so I have to put it in the memory bank for later,” explained Truex. “Just all came together – it was meant to be. This whole year has been a dream year.
“We’ve got the best fans in the world and Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and everybody that puts so much into this -- Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners, WIX, 5-hour ENERGY, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, the road crew and the guys back at the shop in Denver. The list goes on and on of people who help us do this and make it all possible. And Barney Visser back home had heart surgery last week and we’re missing him today. Thanks to everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the chassis and cooperation and running one-two tonight was pretty awesome.”
According to crew chief Cole Pearn, the planning for Homestead started long before the championship race.
“We just focused on this race for a long time,” said Pearn. “We knew if we were going to be champions, we were going to have to get a lot better here. I can’t thank the number of hours that everybody put into this car and into this race. You know coming here and testing there are a lot of wives on our team who will be happy that this car made it and did what it did and it took every hour of it.
“We had to race three other great guys and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was really good. I think they were honestly a little better than us and Martin was able to dig down and get it done. I don’t really know how to comprehend it at this point. Just so so thrilled and be able to truly call ourselves champions is unbelievable.”
Truex and Furniture Row Racing will take center stage during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, which will culminate with the NASCAR Awards Banquet at The Wynn on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Finishing positions 3-10 went to: Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman.