Martin Truex Jr. continues his red-hot season
By Rick Minter
On several occasions this season — and in recent years as well — Martin Truex Jr. has seen other drivers surge forward in the latter stages and win races he’d dominated.
But on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it was a slow-starting Truex who motored to the front and led the final 57 laps to get his sixth win of the season and one that guarantees him a berth in the playoff’s Round of Eight, which begins after two more races — first at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday and at Kansas Speedway the following week.
Truex qualified an uncharacteristically poor 17th and was unable to break into the top 10 in the first 90-lap stage. He did finish fourth in the second stage, earning seven points, as Kevin Harvick, who led a race-high 149 laps, won both stages.
Truex took the lead for the first time on Lap 234 of 377, then took the lead for good from Harvick just after one of several restarts.
Truex survived two late restarts, including the final one, which was an overtime run to the checkered flag, to secure his 13th career Cup victory.
Chase Elliott finished second, an increasingly familiar scenario for him, with Harvick third, followed by polesitter Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray.
Truex said in his winner’s interview that if he’d had the same good fortune elsewhere that he had at Charlotte, his season win total would be much higher.
“I think, honestly, we could be sitting with 10, 10 or so, and that’s a realistic number,” he said. “This is racing. A lot of times things aren’t going to go your way. That’s just the way it works.”
He added that he’s plenty happy with the six wins he does have.
“Just an amazing year, and thankful for everyone, and honestly we don’t really think about the ones that got away, we just figure out how to not let it happen again,” he said. “We’ve lost enough that we’ve learned enough from them, I think, and hopefully that makes us better going forward.”
Truex became emotional in Victory Lane when he talked about his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, who missed the race due to health concerns related to a chemotherapy treatment the Monday before.
“She probably could have come, but it was a little bit of the weather, and mostly that it’s kind of risky for her to be around too many people right now after having chemo Monday,” he said. “Germs and something as simple as a cold could put her in the hospital. It’s not worth the risk.”
Truex said that between his earlier career setbacks and Pollex’s battle with ovarian cancer, he’s learned to take the ups and downs of the sport in stride.
“You never know what can happen next week,” he said. “You could win 10 races in a row and then all of a sudden you can’t do anything right.”
Thinking about that in Victory Lane led to the tears, he said.
“There’s just so many things that you’re thinking about and so much emotion and so much you’re thankful for, because this stuff is so hard, and you never know if you’ll get another chance to do it,” he said.