Martin Truex, Jr.’s win at Chicagoland Speedway means that the No. 78 team has something that other teams don’t for these next two races: breathing room.
Given the ups and downs the team has faced this season, it’s a much-needed addition to their Chase run.
Though there are two races left in the Round of 16, the win guarantees Truex a spot in the Round of 12, though, he failed the post-race Laser Inspection Station (LIS). According to NASCAR, the car was not far enough out of tolerance to earn the “encumbered finishes” penalty and will still be able to use the win to automatically advance to the next round regardless of what happens at New Hampshire Motor Speedway or Dover International Speedway.
This is Truex’s third win of the season. He has won two of the last three races on the schedule and Chicago was his third consecutive finish inside the top three. With the win, Truex essentially leads the Chase Grid and has to be an early favorite to carry the momentum all the way to Homestead.
“It was a good weekend for us,” Truex said post-race. “Really today was a great day for us on the racetrack. We had to overcome some adversity obviously. That was tough. But really proud of our team for everybody sticking together, everybody keeping their heads down and never quitting till it was over.”
The “adversity” Truex was referring to came in the form of a tire issue at the beginning of the race that forced the No. 78 car to make an unscheduled pitstop. Of course the team was able to rebound to make it to victory lane, but having to deal with adversity in the race isn’t a new concept for this race team.
“The mindset was, all right, this isn’t good, this is bad,” Truex said, describing the initial emotions in regards to the tire issue. “I really wish this didn’t happen, but it did. How are we going to overcome it? That’s all you can do at that point in time is say, OK, where are we at? Where is the leader? What do I need to do? Cole kept me updated on who the leader was, who was a lap down, where I had to get to. Just kept my pushing, just kept my head down, kept digging.
“Then the challenge was, How are we going to get up through traffic? It wasn’t easy to pass out there. But our car was really good on the long runs. That’s where we were able to make time. It was trying to be patient on the short runs, on the restarts, try to keep my tires under me, and wait for those guys to start fading, then make my move. That’s what I did all day long and it worked out.”
Truex’s own personal adversity has been well documented, and Furniture Row Racing’s rise from a back-marker organization to a championship favorite is still a popular underdog story. Truex has been with this team for a good portion of that rise. Team owner Barney Visser allowed a bit of a revelation to Truex’s own personal commitment to that continued success.
“I have to thank Toyota and Martin,” Visser said in an interview post-race. “Like I said, I think he’s pure athlete. He drove for a little bit less this year than I think a lot of the drivers in his class have, and he did it because he wanted to be here. I can’t thank him enough for all that.”
Truex addressed those comments afterwards.
“Barney has put a lot into his race team over the years obviously,” said Truex. “Seeing Furniture Row on that racecar each and every year, that’s Barney’s racecar and Barney is the one funding it. He had to change some things in the way he was running his race team. He asked me if I would kind of not take the hit, but be the one that took a little bit of a hit for the team to make sure we could keep the competition up and make sure we could continue to get the things we needed to be competitive and win races and hopefully go after a championship. There was other opportunities that were out there. I believe this is the best team I’ve ever had. This is my best opportunity to win races. We’ve proven that. It’s my best opportunity, and really only my second opportunity, since last year, to go for a championship. That wasn’t something I was willing to get rid of or throw away. Made the commitment to Barney we were going to do it, we were going to work together and make it work for everybody.”
It seems to be working. While Joe Gibbs Racing and the Toyotas have been the class of the field all year, FRR’s alliance doesn’t just seem to be benefitting the No. 78 team – they seem to be at times outrunning their JGR counterparts. This isn’t new for FRR either. When the No. 78 team was still running Chevrolets and had an alliance with Richard Childress Racing, Truex was typically outrunning those drivers as well.
Truex made the Championship 4 race at Homestead as a title contender, and at this point it looks like he may be able to do it again. This “little team that could” has now turned into one of the most competitive teams on the circuit, even though they are still receiving “assistance” from another organization.
“Without a doubt it’s the best team I’ve ever had, it’s the best position I’ve ever been in,” Truex said. “I really feel like we have what it takes to win this championship.”
About the author
Promoted to editor in 2013, Summer is one of Frontstretch’s fast-rising young talents. While contributing to social media efforts, she also writes the weekly "Up To Speed" column. A Kansas native, Summer graduated with a Bachelor's in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2015. She also contributes to other media outlets such as Kickin' The Tires.
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