Tuesday, Sep 21

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Having the most stage points of any driver does not phase Martin Truex, Jr.

 

Truex currently has 21 playoff points. He accumulated those points from his wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway. The other 11 playoff points have come from running consistently up front at the end of stages during the race.

 

“A guy like (Martin) Truex, he can almost lollygag all the way to Homestead with as many playoff points as he’s accumulated,” said Kurt Busch yesterday.

 

“Thats fine. They can say that. I don’t think we are. If we sit idle, don’t get those stage wins, let the points lead slip away, we will be at a disadvantage come playoff time. We want to continue to build on that. We obviously want to lead the regular season points. That’s going to be difficult to do. That’s a focus of ours. The bigger the lead we have at the start of the playoffs the better. We are not going to stop pushing,” said Truex Jr., in a rebuttal to that logic.

 

Truex accredited the teams ability to run up front and being competitive to why they have accumulated the stage and playoff points. 

 

Truex currently sits second in points, only 13 points behind the points leader, Kyle Larson.

CONCORD, N.C.— In a race that was dominated by Martin Truex, Jr., it was Austin Dillon who made it to victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 after pushing the limits in the gas tank.

 

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I can’t believe it. I was just really focused on those last laps. My fiancé wrote in the car, ‘When you keep God in the first place, he will take you places you never imagined.’ And, I never imagined to be here at the 600 Victory Lane,” said Dillon. “Praise the Lord and all these guys who work so hard; and my pit crew is the best on pit road. I love it for them. We’re in the Chase. It’s awesome.”

 

This is Dillon’s first career victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  This is Dillon’s first race with crew chief, Justin Alexander, on top of the pit-box.  This is his first victory in 133 races. Dillon becomes the 10th driver to score his first career victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

 

When many drivers were hitting pit road for tires and fuel, Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano stayed out in an effort to conserve fuel and make it to the end. Johnson had the race in the bag, but ran out of fuel going down the backstretch on lap 398. Dillon was able to conserve enough fuel to score the victory. Dillon ran out of fuel right as the checkered flag fell. Dillon was able to make it back around for one victory spin.

 

After running towards the front for majority of the night, Kyle Busch finished in the second position. Busch was able to get out front in the opening stage of the race to score the one playoff and 10 championship points. Busch led 63 laps, but fell short of victory to finish second at Charlotte.

 

“This M&M’s Camry was awesome tonight. It was just super fast. I mean we had one of the fastest cars all night long and then the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was probably the fastest car. There at the end, somehow we ran him down. You know he got a straightaway out on us, but there that last 100 laps we were able to get back to him and pass him so you know that was promising for us there at the end in order to get a second-place finish, but man just so so disappointed,” said Busch. “I don’t know. We ran our own race. We did what we needed to do and it wasn’t – it wasn’t the right game. We come up short and finish second.”

 

After dominating majority of the race, Truex Jr was unable to catch Dillon on fresh tires. On his final march to the lead, Truex used up his tires quickly and was unable to catch Ky. Busch and A. Dillon. Truex was able to finish in the third position after leading 233 of the 400 laps. With his performance tonight, Truex was able to snag the points lead from Kyle Larson.

 

“That stings a little bit, but can’t say enough about the guys on the team and everybody in Denver. Everybody on this Bass Pro Toyota did a heck of a job today. We just – we missed it a little bit on our last adjustment. I think if not for that we probably could’ve gotten the 3 (Austin Dillon), said Truex. “And then lapped traffic is just so tough here. There’s a few guys out there that you don’t ever know where they’re going to be when you get to the corner and it cost you so much time trying to pass them, ultimately that’s what got us. It is what it is. Like I said, we’re proud of everybody at TRD, at Toyota, Bass Pro and all the partners. Just came up a little short tonight.”

 

Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Newman, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top-10.

 

The Coca-Cola 600 was stopped shortly after lap 143 due to a brief rain shower. The red flag lasted one hour, 36 minutes, and 59 seconds for track drying operation.  The caution flew a total of nine times for 53 laps. There were 23 lead changes among 10 different drivers.

 

Truex assumed a five point lead over Larson. Keselowski sits in the third position 82 points behind Truex. Kevin Harvick sits fourth in points only 103 points behind Truex. Ky. Busch rounds out the top-five in points only 105 points behind Truex.

 

Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams is a trip to Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400 Driver For Autism. The race will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network beginning at 1:00 p.m. EST.

After a late race charge from Clint Bowyer and pit road penalties for Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson was able to win the rain-delayed Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway, his second win of 2017.

 

“Yeah, it was kind of interesting because when the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) was there, it just created an environment to run the top and I wasn’t as good on the top. The No. 42, not being up there and that first couple of cars; the bottom was really where it was at for the short run. This Lowe’s Chevrolet was flying!”

 

"I’m so happy to give everybody at A.O. Smith a good ride on the quarter panel this weekend. We wouldn’t be here without a ton of support from Valvoline, Gatorade, the fans, Lowe’s, and Chevrolet. This track has been difficult over the years and we really hit on something Saturday afternoon in that last practice session around the bottom and honestly, it’s what I’ve been looking for here for 16 years and we finally figured it out. So, I’m very very happy.”

 

This is Johnson’s 82nd career win. He is only one win behind Cale Yarborough and two wins behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip on the all time career wins list. This is Johnson’s second career victory at Bristol; He scored his first in 2010.

 

Bowyer was considered “Mr. Where Did He Come From?” in the closing laps of the race. A caution or a few more laps could have gave Bowyer the win. Despite being disappointed in a second place finish, this is Bowyer’s best finish of 2017. This is also Bowyer’s best Cup Series finish since driving for Michael Waltrip Racing in the spring race at Richmond in 2013.

 

“Yeah, you have to put it into perspective. We’ve come a long way with this team. These guys have worked so hard; it’s a fun group, everybody at Haas. My teammates are awesome. It’s so much fun to work with this group each and every week. Hell yeah you want to be up there and win it. But the day we had, I got caught speeding on pit road and had to bounce back,” said Bowyer. “The guys kept working on the car. I appreciate the opportunity that Gene Haas and Tony Stewart gave me. Mobil 1, Haas Automation and everyone that’s a part of it.”

 

Kevin Harvick sat quietly in the front of the field for the 500 lap event. Harvick led 14 of the 500 laps to finish in the third position.

 

“I thought our Jimmy Johns Ford was the fastest car, we just needed track position. I think we showed how fast it was there on no tires and kind of able to hold our own,” said Harvick. “You just never know where you’re going to come out on those restarts. I felt like we had a couple cautions and we were in control of the race with the 11 on two tires and we might have had a chance. A good weekend and we’ll just keep going.” 

 

Larson, who won the first stage, finished in the sixth position. Larson led 202 laps, but a late race pit road speeding penalty bit Larson and his chance for a second victory in 2017.

 

“I’m a little disappointed, but not bad.  I’m more disappointed in myself from getting that speeding penalty with 80 (laps) or so to go.  I was just pushing it down pit road and pushed it a little too far.  I had a shot there still at the end, but four tires were better than ours,” said Larson.

 

Truex Jr, who won the second stage, finished in the eighth position. Truex also received a late race speeding penalty sending him to the end of the field.

 

“We were going for it you know. Wish we could have had a shot there just to see if we could have won. This Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota with everyone that helps us make it right – Toyota, TRD 5-hour, Wix, Bass Pro and just everybody. This is the best run we’ve had here in a long time. It’s bittersweet, I wish we could have seen if we could have beat the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). We were close there before that last caution, but it is what it is and you try to get what you can get and sometimes you cross the line and today we crossed the line,” said Truex Jr. about the penalty

 

The Food City 500 was slowed nine times for 76 laps. There were 14 lead changes amongst seven drivers. The race was stopped once for a red flag on lap 67 for five minutes and 10 seconds.

 

Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the Toyota Owner’s 400 from Richmond International Raceway. FOX and Motor Racing Network will have the broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. EST on Sunday April 30th.

 

In a media availability on Friday with Truex and Garone, the idea of a second car was hinted by Joe Garone, general manager of Furniture Row.. “It’s certainly a part of it for the growth of the team. It’s been over this journey we started off and Barney (Visser, team owner), his company has funded our car all along and are still there, but Bass Pro Shops really coming onboard this last year has really opened up a door for other sponsorships. And, it’s kind of settled us to where we feel we’re getting strong enough to support a second effort and it’s no secret we’ve been working on that and we’ll see where that takes us. If we can get it all pulled together it will be ’17. Yep.”

 

However, after weeks of speculation and a preliminary report by Motorsport.com, Furniture Row Racing made it official Sunday before the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen that Erik Jones will move from NASCAR Xfinity Series competition to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in 2017 to field a second car for Furniture Row, alongside Martin Truex Jr., who re-signed this week with a two-year contract extension. 5-hour ENERGY will be the primary sponsor for the new no. 77 Toyota, leaving their current sponsorship of Clint Bowyer, driver of the no. 15 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet. 

 

Barney Visser, owner of Furniture Row Racing, explains how quickly this deal came together. "We're very excited to have all the components of a second race team pulled together here.  It's all come together in the last month.To find a driver like Erik, a sponsor like 5-Hour ENERGY, along with our technical agreement with Gibbs, we think we're going to be able to run right up where we need to run.  We're very excited to get it all pulled together here.”

 

Rise Meguiar, vice president of Living Essentials, was also in attendance in today’s press conference. “They came to us and presented the program for Erik.  I've been watching Erik and seen his talent in both series.  We have watched what Furniture Row has done with the car that they have.  We just felt that it was going to be a good place for us to be.  It was just a really good fit.”

 

"It's hard to say I'm not excited but anxious at the same time, anxious for this day, and excited to be here.  It's pretty cool for me to be partnered up with Furniture Row and be part of them growing and part of 5-Hour, too.  To have such a big company like that be partnered with me is pretty cool this early in my racing career and something I've always wanted,” said Jones of his new partnership with Furniture Row and 5-hour ENERGY. 

 

Toyota Racing Development is pumped to have a new team in Sprint Cup Series competition. "I think Erik ascending to the Cup level, for Toyota, this is the first time a Toyota driver has grown from the grassroots ranks all the way through NASCAR's national series.  I think it's a great story for Toyota, but probably a greater story for NASCAR and the future of our sport,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development USA.

 

Furniture Row Racing will be seeking charter status for the no.77 entry in 2017. "There's several charters out there that we're hearing are available.  We've been looking at it some.  We're not exactly sure where we're going to be on that.  We are going to get a charter, but we're not sure who we're going to get it from yet,” said Visser. 

 

Adding a second team, according to Garone, will not affect day-to-day operations because the team has already begun modifying the shop in Denver, Colorado to accommodate two cars.

 

Visser and Furniture Row hope the one-year deal with Jones will turn into many more to come.

 

5-Hour ENERGY will also be proudly displayed for two races on Martin Truex Jr.’s car, which includes the NASCAR All-Star Race in 2017. 

 

Jones is the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. He currently holds the top seed in the Xfinity Chase with three wins. He has clinched 11 top-five finishes in 2016. He also has six poles under his belt in 2016. With an average start of 2.7, Jones has an average finish of 11.4. Jones has a couple NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts under his belt from 2017, filling in for Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth in 2015. Jones also filled in for Denny Hamlin in Sprint Cup competition during the Food City 500 in support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer at Bristol Motor Speedway in early 2016. 

 

With a one car operation, Furniture Row has clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in three of the last four years. In 2016, the team has one win, three top-five’s, three poles, an average start of 9.6, and an average finish of 13.4.

Team Penske brought the horsepower to Pocono, sweeping all three round of Sprint Cup Series qualifying and will start alongside each other on the front row. 

After Joey Logano was quickest in the first two rounds of qualifying, his teammate Brad Keselowski took the final round en route to his first pole of 2016 and first pole at Pocono Raceway. His previous best qualifying results at the "Tricky Triangle" were a pair of third-place efforts in 2014. 

It was a speed of 181.726 mph that claimed the top spot. Logano ran a speed of 181.400 mph, nearly a tenth of a second off the pole-winning time. 

"It was a really solid effort for Team Penske," Keselowski said. "To get 1-2 is hard to do, but we had great speed today. I wasn't really sure what to expect with the rain and all of the other variables that were thrown at us with no practice."

The last seven times that Keselowski has started on pole, he has finished in the top 10 each time with two victories. 

After Logano, it was August winner Matt Kenseth who placed third at 181.316 mph. Kevin Harvick had the fourth best time at 181.192 mph and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five at 180.759 mph.

"I didn't do a very good job today," Harvick said of his fourth-place effort. "The car was a lot faster than the driver today. The guys did a job preparing a good job, but I wasn't in a good rhythm and didn't do a good job in any of the rounds to get everything out of the car that I needed to." 

Tony Stewart will start sixth in his best qualifying effort since Michigan last August when he began that 400-mile race fifth. 

Jimmie Johnson will start seventh, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. eighth, Kurt Busch ninth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10. 

Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th with Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney alongside in 14th. 

The defending race winner, Martin Truex, Jr. posted the 17th quickest time in qualifying. The No. 78 team feels that they missed the setup completely and thought the track was going to be something different. It took them two tries to get through the first round, which put more laps on their tires, hurting the speed in Round Two. 

"We just totally missed it off the trailer, which is unusual for our team," Truex said. "We were way off our first run in practice and had so many different ideas about what it might have been. It felt so bad that it felt like the tires were wrong or we had a bad set."

Final practice is set to begin at 11:30 on Saturday weather depending. It will be the only time that the teams will be able to practice on race trim because no driver completed more than seven laps in the opening practice on Friday.
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