KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing were racing for a higher purpose on Sunday at Kansas Speedway, and at the end of the Hollywood Casino 400, driver and team had realized that purpose.
Seeking a win following the tragic passing of FRR road crew fabricator Jim Watson from a heart attack Saturday night, Truex delivered with a come-from-behind performance, overcoming a restart violation in stage one and an unscheduled pit stop for a vibration in stage two to ultimately take the lead from Kyle Busch on lap 211.
Truex never looked back from there, weathering a late-race caution and a final restart with 25 laps left to score his series-leading seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the year, as well as his record sixth on a 1.5-mile race track.
“I can’t say enough about these guys on this team, I’m really proud of them,” said Truex. “We were racing with heavy hearts today after losing Jim last night, and still sending our condolences to his family and all of his friends. He was one heck of a guy and a great worker and he helped put a lot of speed in our cars.”
“I’m excited to get another one here at Kansas, it feels really awesome. It’s really Furniture Row Racing’s home track. To finally get another one here, after finally getting one in the spring after so many heartbreaks … today it didn’t look like it was going to happen, but we just persevered.”
That half-dozen sets a single-season record at the Cup level, breaking a tie with Carl Edwards’ five-win season on mile-and-a-halves from 2008.
“That’s just unbelievable,” Truex said of setting the new mark. “Six wins on mile and a half tracks and seven wins (on the season) … I just have to pinch myself. It’s a dream season. I’m proud of everybody for sticking with me. Today was definitely a challenge but fast cars and good teams prevail.”
Truex started from the pole but was dinged for dropping to the apron before the start-finish line on a lap 36 restart early in the race, following a competition caution for teams to check tire wear.
From there, it was a game of catch-up, especially after Truex dove to pit road on lap 92 with a “very bad” vibration.
He never gave in, though, pushing Kyle Busch to the top spot on a lap 205 restart before taking the lead for good six laps later.
However, that restart came after a 20-lap stretch that completely turned the complexion of the playoff standings on its head, with Jimmie Johnson spinning out twice on laps 188 and 193 to drop him below the cutoff line at that point.
That set up a race-defining restart on lap 198, which saw Erik Jones spin out from fourth exiting turn two and nearly flip down the backstretch when he washed across the track and was plowed into by Daniel Suarez as a result.
Before the carnage was over, a total of 14 cars were collected in the multi-car crash, including playoff contender Matt Kenseth — who was eliminated from contention when he had too many men go over the wall during the crew’s attempt to repair his Toyota.
That crash breathed life back into Truex’s chances, as he fought his way to the front of the field and put together the late-race dominance he has become known for this season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
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