inside story of the race that made Truex Jr. a champ
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[November 30, 2017]
By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
LAS VEGAS -- Understandably, the
proudest moment of Martin Truex's racing life was simultaneously a
source of enormous frustration for Kyle Busch.
But both drivers recall with indelible clarity the closing laps of
the Nov. 19 Ford Eco-Boost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race that made Truex a champion and
Busch a disappointed runner-up for the title.
For the record, Truex powered his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota
across the finish line, with Busch's No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
.681 seconds in arrears. But the outcome was in doubt for the final
17 laps, after Busch passed Kevin Harvick for second place on Lap
250 of 267 and took off after Truex, who had claimed the lead off
pit road for a restart on Lap 234.
With Busch driving a faster long-run car, Truex found a small patch
of grip high in Turn 4 and kept Busch's Camry in his mirror.
"For me, it's probably one of my proudest moments, because I got put
in that position, and my guys said, 'Here it is; it's all up to you
now; here's the lead with 32 laps to go -- show us what you've
got,'" Truex told the NASCAR Wire Service.
"It's definitely one of the proudest moments of my career to be able
to bring it home for them, after all they've done for me and giving
me the opportunity they have and putting me in a position to be a
champion. I was glad I could hold up my end of the deal."
Though Truex hasn't watched a replay of the race in its entirety, he
relishes the memory of every second of the closing green-flag run.
"I can remember every single one of those laps," Truex said. "I can
remember everything that happened, everything I thought, when I
missed the line, when I hit it, and, most importantly, when I found
that little patch of grip up there off of Turn 4.
"That was the game-changer for me."
For Busch, not so much.
"I tried that same patch -- it didn't work for me," Busch said after
Wednesday's Myers Brothers Awards ceremony in the Encore Theater. "I
tried to get as close to the wall as I could off of (Turn) 4. I was
way too loose. I just didn't have the drive-off that I needed, and I
think that was a lot to do with being in his wake, just being behind
him and having the aero deficiency that I had."
The final 15 laps weren't just a two-car battle. Enter Kyle Larson,
who charged past Harvick for the third position on Lap 252 and,
running against the outside wall, quickly rolled up near Busch's
back bumper and began contemplating his prospects of passing the No.
"I got to third, and I felt like, if I was going to win or pass
those guys -- which I felt like I could -- I needed to pass them
before 10 (laps) to go," said Larson, who was eliminated from
championship contention by an engine failure at Kansas Speedway.
"I felt like, once we got to 10 to go, I needed to respect them and
kind of let things play out between those two... I didn't want to
screw one guy and not the other."
Interestingly, Busch contemplated letting Larson pass him in the
"I actually though about, with maybe 15 to go, something like that
... he (Larson) was really close to me, and I was like, 'I wonder if
I let him go, and he gets in-between us, if he'll go and try to race
Truex and pass Truex and help Truex come back to me," Busch said.
"So I thought about doing that, but I said I can't give in to that
at this moment of letting somebody else within the battle, because,
if he doesn't go up and pass the 78, he just pushes me further
behind. That's why I stayed the way we were and tried to fight it
With Truex making ground near the top of the track, Busch tried a
low line, and with three laps left, he lost momentum off Turn 2.
With a head of steam around the top, Larson was there to give the
No. 18 a nudge.
[to top of second column]
"I was hoping to launch him forward, but I kind of got him
squirrely," Larson said. "I'm glad he didn't hit the wall, because I
was just trying to help him out. Not that I wanted him to win over
Martin. I just wanted to get him closer to make the racing more
exciting, I guess."
In the moment, Busch understood Larson's intent.
"I knew that was a moment of help," Busch said. "It wasn't a moment
of trying to screw with me at all. I knew what that was. It's just
that these cars are so loose on the straightaways, with not a lot of
downforce, and of course we were on older tires, with higher air
pressure and everything like that, and it got me juked up.
"But I was expecting that, and I was fine with it. It was all good."
In the end, the bump from Larson didn't help enough to put Truex's
title in jeopardy. But it helped to make the final 17 laps of the
event some of the most riveting in recent memory.
TRUEX JR., POLLEX WIN MYERS BROTHERS AWARD
--Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. and
long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex earned the prestigious Myers
Brothers Award, not for Truex's accomplishments on the race track,
but for their unrelenting generosity off the asphalt.
Pollex has been battling ovarian cancer since her diagnosis in 2014
and recently had a recurrence that has required chemotherapy.
Nevertheless, she and Truex have maintained a commitment to
charitable causes that took root more than a decade ago.
"It's been a crazy, crazy year for both of us, both personally and
professionally, with my cancer and...," Pollex said with a catch in
"Don't do that, 'cause I'm going to cry," Truex interjected. "This
is an unbelievable honor to receive this award. We definitely didn't
see it coming. It was unexpected. Sherry and I have been very
fortunate in our lives to have all the things we needed.
"We've had great families, great parents that raised us right and
taught us right from wrong. I think they probably deserve a lot of
the credit for us being who we are and being able to give back and
help people... We've learned so much from past champions, and just
everybody in the sport that's so willing to give back.
"We don't deserve all the credit for this. I think we've learned a
lot of lessons from a lot of people in this room."
KESELOWSKI GRATIFIED BY HONORS TO TRUCK TEAM DRIVERS
--Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
champion, won't be fielding a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team
in 2018, but his Brad Keselowski Racing team is departing on a high
BKR driver Austin Cindric made the Championship 4 race at Homestead
and finished third in the final standings. Teammate Chase Briscoe
earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors and was voted the series'
most popular driver.
"I'm proud of him," Keselowski said of the latter distinction for
Briscoe. "I'm proud of the marketing team at BKR as well. They put a
lot of effort into that, in trying to promote and do those things
and help those guys launch their careers with some kind of star
power and branding efforts.
"It's something we've taken very seriously, and it's good to see it
take a foothold."
Both Briscoe and Cindric will drive partial schedule in Roush Fenway
Racing's No. 60 XFINITY Series Ford next season, along with RFR
development driver Ty Majeski.
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