It had been almost a year ago since Martin Truex Jr. won his previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race but tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he checked that off the to-do list for the 2016 season. The driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota led 392 of 400 laps in the 57th Annual Coca-Cola 600. That's also a new CMS record for the most laps led. As a result, Truex Jr. has now secured a spot in NASCAR's playoff system - the Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup.
This win was truly an emotional one for the 35-year-old Mayetta, NJ native and his girlfriend Sherry Pollex. "It feels awesome," Truex Jr. said in a Toyota post-race press release. "This is one everybody wants to win. There are so many emotions, I had to unplug my radio and just ride around and think for a few minutes, because I didn’t even know what I was going to say or what I was going to do. We’ve been through a lot as a group. I’ve been through a lot personally. I’ve been through a lot with Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) and just it’s fun to have her here and have her celebrate and it’s just – happy for my guys, happy for Barney (Visser, team owner)."
2016 is the first year that Furniture Row Racing, based out of Denver, Colo., has formed an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. "We've just got those Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas flying man," Truex Jr. said. "It's just fun to drive them. I honestly thought we could have been better tonight and just kept digging and just kept making small adjustments and working on it and here we are."
The final few laps were nailbiters for Truex Jr. He explained during post-race media that he 'just had to hold them off'. "It was 50 to go and then it was 40 to go and then 30 to go and I just kept praying for no cautions and driving away," Truex Jr. said of the race towards the finish. "I felt like we had the car to do it. I knew if I could get out there in clean air, I could make stuff happen, so it’s just – it worked out for us. It was just the car was so strong that I don’t think anybody was going to touch the thing tonight."
After narrowly missing Victory Lane at Charlotte a year ago, Truex Jr. is proud to have his name on the trophy this year. "It really stung last year when we lost this one to fuel mileage after running that good, but I’m telling you we’re going to win a lot of races."
Battling and so far beating cancer, Pollex was on hand to witness boyfriend Truex Jr's triumphant victory. "It's amazing," she said. " I keep telling him that he had to lose all those races and that God was building his character to win a big one and this was huge for us and our hometown and our family and for Johnny (Morris, Bass Pro Shops) and Barney (Visser, owner of Furniture Row Racing) and we’ve been through so much. This is just the icing on the cake. It’s awesome. It’s so cool.”
After finishing in the runner-up position, Stewart-Haas Racing's No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet still leads the Sprint Cup Series points. His teammate Kurt Busch is not far behind. The No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet driver is now 36 points behind after coming home tonight in sixth, a solid top-10 finish. "We struggled tonight," Harvick said in Team Chevy post-race notes. "The last couple of runs I got tight. The one run when we had the first air pressure adjustment we were really good. The last two runs I was a little bit tighter once I got up behind those guys, right behind them, I just couldn’t go anywhere. I’m just really proud of the effort to turn the car around. We had a 10th place car and they turned it into a car capable of racing for the win. That is pretty awesome.”
Indycar driver Alexander Rossi and Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott have at least two things in common - they are both rookies and both sponsored by NAPA Auto Parts. While Rossi was victorious in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Elliott earned another top-10 finish in the Coca-Cola 600. After starting 12th, and overcoming an early pit-road speeding penalty, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet earned his ninth top ten of the Cup season, a respectable eighth.
Billed as the 'stock car racing's longest-running event,' the '600' took three hours and 46 minutes to run with a total of four caution flags. There were a total of nine lead changes throughout the duration of the race.
Next up for the Sprint Cup Series clan is the Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 at Pocono Raceway. Coverage starts at 1:00 PM ET on FS1, MRN and Sirius XM Channel 90.
Coca-Cola 600 Race Results
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Kurt Busch
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Chase Elliott
9. Joey Logano
10. Ryan Newman