Martin Truex Jr. Wins at Watkins Glen

August 6, 2017 | Professional Writing

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Martin Truex Jr. saved enough fuel to hold off the field and pick up his fourth win of 2017 in Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International.

It’s his 11th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and the second of his career on a road course.

“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment just because I’ve been thinking about this one a long time – all weekend, all day,” Truex said. “I guess this is our time. Just can’t say enough about all of these guys and what they allowed me to do. I’m having the time of my life, that’s all I can tell you.

“It means a lot to be in victory lane here at this race track. I’ve been coming here a long time and feel like we’ve been close and had a few slip away from us, but really excited. Great to see an awesome turnout here today with the fans and the sellout. Such a unique and great part of the country.”

Truex was one of the fastest cars of the day and finished second in Stage 1 to Kyle Busch, who started on the pole and led the first stage wire to wire. Truex would also finish second in Stage 2 to rookie Daniel Suarez and was a fixture at the front of the field for the final stage.

After pitting for the final time on Lap 53 of the 90-lap event, Truex took over the top spot on Lap 64 before giving the lead back to Brad Keselowski on Lap 77 after going into fuel conservation mode and eventually fell back to third.

Truex said trying to conserve fuel and let cars pass him in the closing laps was tough to watch.

“It’s the hardest thing in the world to do to slow down and let those guys pass you for the lead thinking that when you figure out that you have enough fuel to make it you can try to step up your pace again and they’re just going to do the same,” Truex said “You never know what strategy everybody is on.”

After Keselowski pitted with three laps to go for fuel, Ryan Blaney took a turn at the top spot but was forced to pit road a lap later. Truex took over the lead for the final time on Lap 88 and held off a charging Matt Kenseth for the victory.

“I just went as fast as I had to to keep him behind me and fortunately we were able to keep that gap and never ran out of gas,” Truex said. “I wish I’d have went a little harder on that last lap so it wasn’t quite so close because I got pretty nervous those last two corners.”

Kenseth’s second-place finish was his best showing of the 2017 season and his fourth straight top-10 effort.

“That last run after we pitted we knew we were a few laps short. Martin had a really fast car, deserved to win the race,” Kenseth said. “The last three laps we were both saving pretty hard and Jason told me we were good at the one to go. So I stood on it and he stood on it too and even missed Turn 6 and tried to give it to me but I couldn’t get close enough to take advantage.”

Suarez finished a career-best third with Denny Hamlin fourth and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top-five finishers.

“I feel like it was a good weekend,” Suarez said. “We made a lot of progress from practice to the race. I’m very happy for third-place. It’s very hard to finish third when you can see the leader right there.”

Truex continues to maintain his lead in the series standings, holding a 116-point margin over Kyle Busch.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series continues next Sunday as the series makes its second stop of the season at Michigan International Speedway.

How Truex Won: Truex led the final stage but went into fuel conservation mode, giving up the lead with 13 laps to go before eventually dropping to third with under 10 laps to go. After race leaders Keselowski pitted with four laps to go and Blaney a lap later, Truex inherited the lead. Truex would have to hold off a charging Matt Kenseth over the final two laps, getting loose entering the inner loop on the final lap and then locked up his tires entering Turn 6 of the 7-Turn road course.

Who Had a Good Day: Kurt Busch. After a week where news broke he may not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018, the Daytona 500 champion finished sixth. Busch started 18th after a disappointing qualifying effort earlier in the day but ran near the top-10 much of the day, finishing Stage 2 in eighth. Busch was the benefactor of cars needing to pit for fuel in the closing laps and charged to a sixth-place finish. Busch sits 14th in series standings with four races to go before the playoffs begin but is secured a spot in the post-season by virtue of his win at Daytona.

Who Had a Bad Day: Kyle Busch… sort of. Busch won his sixth pole of the season in Sunday’s qualifying session and led the first 21 laps and won Stage 1. A problem with a lug nut getting stuck during his first pit stop of the day brought him back to pit road and sent him to the back of the field. After rebounding to finish ninth in Stage 2, Busch and Keselowski made contact in the inner-loop and spun his Toyota around. Busch would rebound after his spin and eventually got to fourth but had to come to pit road late for fuel, finishing seventh.

What Else Happened: Brake issues were a problem for many teams on Sunday. Hamlin and Bowyer both reached the second round of qualifying on Sunday, but were not able to take laps in the final round after dealing with brake issues. Both cars went to the garage between qualifying and the race to fix the issues and both drivers started at the rear of the field as a result. Trevor Bayne also reported brake problems during pace laps before the race began and was forced to spend several laps at the beginning of the race in the garage to repair the problem, finishing 35th.

Quotable: “That’s the win that will put you into the Chase right there in front of you. But if you run out of gas that’s the dagger that will knock you out for good.” – Clint Bowyer on trying to race for the win and conserving fuel at the end of the race.

Notables: Boris Said in his final career NASCAR start finished 30th… Michael McDowell continued his strong run this summer and finished 12th after starting 14th… Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his final scheduled start at Watkins Glen suffered an engine problem near the end of Stage 1 and eventually went to the garage, finishing 37th.

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