Truex Jr. Closes the Deal, Wins at Pocono


When the dust settled Sunday in Pocono, the driver who ended up in victory lane was one that hadn’t seen it in 69 races (Sonoma, 2013).  He had led the most laps in the past three races, but failed to close the deal when it came down to the end.  But this weekend was different.  After surviving five late-race restarts and leading a race-high 97 laps, Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 team closed the deal and ended up in victory lane.

“We finally got it.  I’m on cloud nine right now,” said Truex Jr. in victory lane after embracing his long time girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who had a battle with cancer.  “I knew we were going to get one. I knew we had the team. I knew we had what it took. It never gets any better than this.  It takes time to heal things, especially with what Sherry and I went through.  This makes you forget all about it.  Sherry’s here healthy, and she’s as excited as I am.”

As Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip mentioned in the FOX Sports booth after the race had concluded, I don’t think anybody was unhappy with the winner of this race.  Truex Jr. might not be as popular as Dale Earnhardt Jr., but I think it’s safe to say that everybody was happy for him and the Furniture Row Racing team on Sunday, a team based out of Denver, far away from the NASCAR hub of the world in Charlotte, which makes life a bit harder.

Kevin Harvick, finished first in all three practice sessions and the first two qualifying sessions this weekend, but came up a little short again and finished second, the tenth time he has finished runner-up this season in fourteen races (first driver to accomplish that feat since hall of famer Bobby Allison did it in 1972).

An unbelievable start to the season for the No. 4 team, who already has two wins, could be looking much better if they were able to close the deal Sunday and the other nine times.

“If you’re going to lose today, that’s a pretty good person to lose to,” Harvick said after the race.  “You look at everything, personally and professionally, Martin and Sherry have dealt with and you have to be super-happy for them.  To see them have that bright spot is something I think the whole garage will support and be happy with.”

Harvick led 39 laps, but had problems with third gear on the restarts and could never get past the No. 78 on them.

Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch finished third, fourth and fifth.  Johnson scraped the wall late after be brought out a caution for a flat tire earlier in the race.  No matter what happens, the No. 48 team always seems to be able to overcome adversity.  No surprise that they’re six-time champions.

Logano rebounded from a pit road speeding penalty very early in the race to get a top five and Busch failed to lead a lap despite starting on the pole.

Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top ten.  Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, told reporters that they were “out of mulligans”, after their 36th place finish at Dover, so a top ten will do wonders for the No. 18 team’s confidence.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. fell short of the Tricky Triangle three-peat, coming home 11th.  Johnson however was overjoyed for his long-time friend Truex Jr., as the two poured beer on each other in victory lane.

Greg Biffle led the RFR brigade in 12th as HMS teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon finished 13th and 14th respectively.  Carl Edwards, Casey Mears, Brad Keselowski (wrecked with Brett Moffitt earlier), Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top 20.

Paul Menard came home 31st after his tachometer was broken and was busted for speeding in all six sections twice, ran over a lugnut and got a flat tire and subsequently broke a part of his splitter off.  Not a good day for the No. 27, or his teammate, Ryan Newman, who was spun after contact with A.J. Allmendinger while running eighth and eventually came home 39th.

Danica Patrick was 37th after spinning twice.  Her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., was 42nd after hitting the wall early and Aric Almirola was 43rd after losing an engine.

So what did we learn this weekend?  Never give up?  Nice guys do finish first?  The little engine that could is applied in NASCAR?  All those other cliches that you could think of?  Well, yes!

FRR’s owner, Barney Visser told Truex Jr. that he could sit out the remainder of the 2014 season after Pollex was diagnosed with her ovarian cancer, and he also guaranteed that Truex Jr. would have his 2015 ride secured.  But the driver respectfully declined the offer and finished out the awful season 24th in points, leading only one lap all season.  It’s safe to say that one year can make all the difference.

Although journalists are preached to be objective in their reporting, they, and I, can’t help to smile at the sight of the No. 78 team, Martin and Sherry in victory lane.

Next weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series head to Michigan International Speedway (Trucks head to Gateway), Impact Sports’ home track.  Be on the lookout for a preview for the race weekend, including my interview with the President of MIS, Roger Curtis.  We talk about everything from racing, to music, to Spartans.

Enjoy the week everybody.  Get ready for some high speeds in the Irish Hills.  Oh, and need some more motivation to tune into the Quicken Loans 400?  Guess who the Grand Marshall is?  Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio.  Go Green!