Truex credits fans, family and team for believing in him
By Isabel Gonzalez
November 19, 2017
HOMESTEAD, Fla.—Martin Truex Jr. can now add Cup Series champion to his resume.
The driver of the No. 78 Toyota took home his first Monster Energy Cup Series trophy after finishing first in a tight race during Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Earlier in the week, Truex Jr. described the season as “amazing,” and most people would agree that the same word can be used to describe the way he capped it all off.
“I was a mess. I didn’t know—I couldn’t even talk,” said Truex Jr. describing his immediate reaction after the race. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with, the times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me, but the guys, the people who mattered did, my fans, my family, and then when I got with this team.
“They’re unbelievable, and they resurrected my career and made me a champion. I don’t know what to say.”
Barney Visser, owner of Furniture Row Racing, suffered a heart attack not too long ago and was therefore not able to attend the race. However, Truex Jr. said the team kept him in their mind throughout the day.
With 40 laps to go, all championship four drivers were in the top seven. It took until the last few seconds to determine the 2017 champion, as Kyle Busch’s No 18 Toyota remained close until the last lap.
Busch finished second, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 ended in the fourth spot, and Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford ended in seventh.
Truex Jr. was a dominant driver this season, posting eight wins, as well as 19 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes. His win means a lot to several people, including the state of New Jersey since he is the first driver from there that’s ever been a Cup Series champion.
But there was one person in particular that came into his mind as soon as he crossed that finish line.
With tears in his eyes, the champion talked about his girlfriend battling cancer and how this win meant a lot to both of them.
“I mean, I told him that’s why you never give up, because these guys are so cool,” he said.
“That’s been our motto all along, ever since I started my cancer battle,” said Sherry Pollex, Truex Jr.’s girlfriend. “We were never going to give up, and we didn’t.”
The day began with pole winner Denny Hamlin losing the lead to Truex Jr. in the first lap. The No. 78 only held onto this lead until the 12th lap when Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 taking over for the next 70 laps. Larson, who did not finished the last four races prior to Sunday due to different issues, dominated the Miami track with with a total of 144 laps in four leads.
Larson’s final lead was during the 161st lap. After that, the competition for the top spot was mostly between Busch and Truex Jr.
“Yeah, it wasn’t quite what we wanted there at the end,” Busch said. “I thought we had a really great race car, especially on the long runs we were really, really good. Just came down to there at the end not having enough tire when I got to the 78, so I just overused my stuff.”
There were three cautions throughout the race, other than the conclusion of the stages. The first one came when Joey Gase’s No. 83 Toyota went made contact with the Turn 1 wall during the sixth lap.
The second one was a heartbreaker for the driver of the No. 10 Ford, Danica Patrick, who made an announcement on Friday saying she was ready to stop racing full time.
This caution began during lap 143 when Patrick bounced off outside wall and went on to hit Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Chevy.
This was not how Patrick wanted to end her career, and it showed when she got out of the car and walked away in an upset manner. Some fans paid respect to the driver and clapped as she did this.
The last non-stage ending yellow flag of the night happened on lap 229, when Kurt Busch’s No. 41 got loose and spun in Turn 4. This incident was the game changer. Truex Jr. admitted that even late in the race he didn’t think he was going to be able to pull it off.
The post-race celebration included fireworks as well as confetti and champagne showers.
This was Dale Earnhardt Jr’s last race, so the celebration also included him drinking beer on the track. However, most of this veteran’s celebration happened prior to the race. The post-race spotlight belonged to Truex Jr. who kept repeating he was in shock.
“I don’t even know how to put this into words,” Truex Jr. said. “It’s not sunk in yet. Tonight’s going to be a hell of a party.”
Jonny Olkowski/The Racing Experts