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TRUEX JR.’S EMOTIONAL SEASON ENDS AS NASCAR CUP CHAMPION
After a season of dominance and dealing with hardships off the track, Martin Truex Jr. closed out the year with a victory in Sunday’s Ford Eco-Boost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and an emotional celebration as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ new champion.
Truex Jr. was able to fend off fellow Championship 4 contender Kyle Busch by .681 of a second to capture his first Cup Series crown, which was an immensely popular win among the industry. In addition to being the most dominant car throughout the season with a series-high eight wins and series-best 2,253 laps led in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, Truex Jr. has handled the off-track difficulties deftly to keep his eye on the ultimate prize.
Truex Jr. has been by the side of long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex throughout the season as she continued her brave fight against ovarian cancer. In late October, Furniture Row Racing road-crew fabricator Jim Watson died at the age of 55 after suffering a heart attack the weekend of the NASCAR Playoff race at Kansas. In early November, team owner Barney Visser survived a heart attack and then underwent successful bypass surgery. However, he was unable to travel to Homestead to witness the win and championship celebration in person.
“A lot of it was for her,” said Truex Jr., who won for the first time at Homestead and the 15th time in his career. “A lot of it was for me. A lot of it was for this team – just, I don’t even know what to say. We just never gave up all day long. We didn’t have the best car. I don’t know how we won that thing. Never give up. Dig deep.”
Truex Jr. and the team needed to dig deep with Busch making his final charge in a 34-lap green-flag run to the finish in pursuit of his second Cup title. With an excellent long-run car, Busch slipped to fourth after the final restart on Lap 234 of 267 and needed nine laps to pass Joey Logano for third. Seven laps later, Busch slipped past fellow Championship 4 contender Kevin Harvick into second. Next up was Truex Jr.
Busch closed rapidly on Truex Jr. initially and cut the advantage to two car lengths, but he never found a line or opportunity to attempt a pass on him as the laps wound down. And Truex Jr. never made a mistake with that No. 18 in his rear-view mirror.
“I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have today, and (with) 20 (laps) to go, I thought I was done – they were all better than me on the long run all day long,” Truex Jr. said. “I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use, and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen.
“I can’t believe it. I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid and just never give up. Just never give up on your dreams, no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through. And thank you, Barney. I wish you were here, buddy.”