Race Weekend Central

Martin Truex, Jr. Turns Domination into Special Coke 600 Victory

The history books will mark Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 as the quickest 600-miler in NASCAR history, both on time and average race speed.

For Martin Truex, Jr., he’ll remember it as 600 miles of excellence as the Furniture Row Racing driver led 392 of 400 laps [a track record] to take the victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, overcoming multiple hard race loses in 2016.

“It’s hard to put into words, honestly,” Truex said. “Really excited that Barney [Visser, team owner] was here tonight. It’s the first time he’s been at the racetrack when one of his cars won. That is a big deal for all of us.”

Setting the record for the most laps ever led at Charlotte and most miles ever led in a NASCAR race [588], Truex’s imperious race meant much more than just a ticket into the Chase.

“The Coke 600 is one of the races everyone wants to win,” Truex said. “We came close to the Daytona 500 and to now be sitting here. It’s unbelievable. These are the races that define driver’s careers.”

Truex’s race almost took a turn for the slightly worse when both rookie Ryan Blaney and reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Busch ran into issues in the closing laps, suffering two flat tires. With no caution being waved, Truex was simply home free toward his fourth career Sprint Cup Series victory.

Johnson and Harvick were pretty much the next best guys in town. [John-Harrelson-NKP]
“The whole weekend was one of them fairy-tale weekends,” he said. “It seemed like everything was going the way it needed to go. We come down to the end of the race, we’re out there leading and I’m like ‘Alright, when is the caution going to come out?’ And it didn’t.”

Coming home second, Kevin Harvick had a late-race getaway, as the No. 4 driver jumped into the runner-up spot ahead of Jimmie Johnson. Having one last shot at Truex in the closing stages, the two-time 600 winner would settle for his third second-place finish of 2016.

“We struggled the first 450 miles,” Harvick said. “They kept swinging at it and we were able to finally find some tire pressures that worked better.”

Coming off last week’s All-Star Race, Harvick believed the cars were sliding around more often with the adjusted rules package at Charlotte.

“I think both nights we’ve seen good racing,” he said. “We were able to pass tonight with our car once we got the handling better. I don’t know what the racing was like with the rest of the pack. They seemed like they slid around more tonight than they did in the All-Star Race.”

Johnson, who was the lone driver to pass Truex under green-flag conditions, spent the beginning of the last 100 laps eating into the Toyota’s race lead. Looking to have something for the No. 78 car, Johnson would lose the battle on the race’s final restart before coming home third.

“I kind of felt like he was playing with us,” Johnson said of Truex. “He was so fast. I would flat-foot [Turns] 1,2 and have a nose on him and he would drive right back by me into Turn 3. It was very impressive. I’m happy for Martin.”

Completing the top 10 was Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, rookie Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

Roush Fenway Racing, showed significant potential in qualifying with all three cars in the top 10, but failed to bring a car into the top 10 in the race. Greg Biffle just missed his first of the season, as he came home 11th, followed by Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

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