Martin Truex Jr. closes out Go Bowling 400 win at Kansas Speedway
By Rick Minter
For the past several seasons, Martin Truex Jr. appeared to have a jinx on him when it came to the spring race at Kansas Speedway.
But on Saturday night in the Go Bowling 400, Truex made all the right moves and came away with his first-ever win at Kansas, his second victory of the season and the ninth of his career.
Truex led 104 laps, including the final 19, to get the win over Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch.
That reversal of fortune came after last season, when he started on the pole and led 172 laps before a broken bolt hung between the wheel and hub during a pit stop and dropped him out of contention.
The year before that, he was poised to win until a late caution flag foiled his run. When he stayed on the track, his challengers, including eventual winner Jimmie Johnson, stopped for fresh rubber and drove away from him on the restart. In 2012, he led 173 laps before finishing second to Denny Hamlin.
This year, he motored away from Blaney on a restart with 19 laps to go, then prevailed on four more restarts to take the victory.
Truex said in his winner’s interview that the earlier failures made this win seem much sweeter.
“It does, I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “As a racer, you don’t forget. You don’t forget those days that one got away or you screwed up and gave one away or anything like that. You never forget those things.
“Definitely last year was probably the biggest heartbreaker to have the craziest thing happen that you could ever imagine — an eight-second lead just gone.”
This time it was young Blaney — in position to claim his first Cup victory on the same weekend he won his first pole — who didn’t have enough speed at the end to take the win.
“[Saturday night] we did everything right,” Truex said. “When the pressure was on, when the money was on the line, we made the right moves, and everything worked out.”
Keselowski came back from two laps down to take the runner-up spot. He had to pit under the green flag to have a loose wheel replaced and was also penalized on that stop for driving through too many pit stalls.
He said he never really got a chance to show the speed of his No. 2 Ford.
“Every time we started to pass cars and cycle up to the front, we had some kind of issue, which was a real bummer to not be able to showcase the strength that we had,” he said. “Toward the end, we were able to get some runs and make the most of it. …
“If it would have just played out normal, I think we might have had a shot at [Truex].”
Third-finishing Harvick also had to overcome a mid-race setback. He made a pit stop at Lap 135 under green due to a vibration and lost a lap.
“We came back through the field,” he said. “It just didn’t line up for us there at the end.”