Lady Luck favors Truex Jr. in Las Vegas on Sunday
By Rick Minter
The finish of Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway showed that racing luck seems to have a way of finding balance.
Martin Truex Jr., who has a history of leading lots of laps only to have something happen late in a race to keep him out of Victory Lane, got lucky and won the race.
Brad Keselowski, who’d been lucky at Atlanta Motor Speedway the week before and won a race that Kevin Harvick had dominated, saw luck work against him when a part broke on his No. 2 Ford just as he was pulling away from Truex with just two laps left to run.
“It was a gift,” Truex said as he climbed from his No. 78 Toyota in Victory Lane.
Keselowski, in his post-race comments, was philosophical about his change in fortune from the week before.
“It’s frustrating, but you put yourself in position to win, and good things will happen,” said Keselowski, who started from the pole at Las Vegas, led 89 laps and had the fastest car at the end before a part in his suspension gave out. “That happened to us last week [at Atlanta] and didn’t happen this week [at Vegas], so you just pick up the pieces and move on.
“Luckily, they’re really big pieces. We’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
Truex, who led 150 of 267 laps and won both of the first two stages of the race, was glad to see his fortunes change, at least for one Sunday. In recent seasons, Truex has been known for having fast cars but often little to show for it. Despite a career-best four wins in 2016, there were six other Cup races in which he led more than 100 laps but failed to win.
That, Truex said, made Sunday’s lucky break at Las Vegas even sweeter.
“We finally got some [good luck],” he said. “We definitely had our share of races where we’ve dominated and gave one away, and it looked like today was going to be another one of those.
“The runs just didn’t work out the way we needed them. We were struggling on the really long runs. We had to run that last set of tires on that last caution longer than we did all race long. I was out of control and Brad [Keselowski] was really good on the long run.
“I hate that he had problems. He was strong, and we weren’t going to do anything with him, but then he lost the brakes or something. A little bit of a gift, but we have given some away, so it feels good to come out on the good end for once.”
Truex’s win, the eighth of his career, was the first of 2017 for manufacturer Toyota.
The Cup circuit’s younger drivers had another good outing. Kyle Larson finished second ahead of Chase Elliott, who also had another good finish. Sophomore driver Ryan Blaney, runner-up in the Daytona 500, was seventh at Las Vegas.
Larson has been on the cusp of victory in all three races this season. He was leading with a lap to go in the Daytona 500 but ran out of fuel, and was again leading at Atlanta before losing the top spot to Brad Keselowski with seven laps to go and finishing second.
Elliott was leading at Daytona with three laps remaining and fell back. He then finished fifth at Atlanta and third at Vegas.
Heading into this weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway, Keselowski leads the Cup standings by one point over Larson, while Elliott is in third place, three points out of the lead.