A combination of superior driving and sound pit strategy propelled Martin Truex Jr. to victory Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
The victory was the second of the season for Truex and 17th of his career. It was also Furniture Row Racing’s 16th career win as a team. Truex moved from fifth to fourth in the driver point standings.
Truex, who had runner-up finishes in the last two races at Kansas and Charlotte, came out of the gate strong, winning the first stage at the 2.5-mile triangular track. He then had to rally back to the front after a lengthy pit stop that sent him to 14th place at the start of the second stage.
Truex’s No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota bolted through the field to finish fourth in the second stage. From that point on the Furniture Row Racing driver was a force to be reckoned with as he battled NASCAR’s best — Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the win.
Truex led the final 21 laps (140 to 160) and crossed the finish line 2.496 seconds ahead of Larson. Busch and Harvick finished third and fourth respectively.
“It’s always fun to win,” said an excited Truex, who led twice for 31 laps. “But especially when you beat the best guys out there. These two guys (Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick) were so fast today. Honestly, we were all really equal. It was a matter of who could get out front. The 4 (Harvick) and I stayed out on tires. I felt like in practice we were really fast on scuffs (tires slightly worn). Cole (Pearn, crew chief) made a good call to stay out and once I got in clean air, this thing was a rocket ship.”
The critical part of the race came during the last three cautions when decisions had to be made on whether to pit or not to pit for fresh tires. Pearn made the call to stay out after each of those cautions and the strategy paid off.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation,” said Truex, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion. “Cole said stay out and I stayed out. I put a lot of faith in him in making those pit calls. You know, 99 percent of the time, he is right. Honestly, we were really fast in practice. We weren’t quite as fast as some guys. On scuffs we were really fast. We got that clean air out front and we were able to check out.”
Truex did a masterful job on the late restarts to maintain the lead.
“You’re always concerned on restarts at Pocono,” Truex explained. “So much can happen on those. We were lucky to be able to get a good one. Once we could get clear in Turn 1, we had a fast enough car in clean air that we could hold them off. Those restarts are always nerve-wracking. You never know who can get a push from behind and get a run on you. We were close to Larson on that last one and that could have made it a lot more difficult. Luckily, had great horsepower from TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and I was able to get out front and make it happen.
“Thanks to everybody here at TRD, Toyota, Denver Mattress and Furniture Row. And Bass Pro Shops and 5-hour ENERGY for allowing us to do what we do. Auto-Owners Insurance, TRD, the guys at the track and everyone at the shop back in Denver. It’s a dream to drive these race cars.”
The balance of the top-10 finishers were: Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott.
The race had six cautions for 23 laps and there were 11 lead changes among seven drivers.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is Sunday June 10 at Michigan International Speedway.
FRR PR/Photo Credit Sarah Crabill/Getty Images