Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kentucky was Martin Truex Jr.’s World; Everyone Else was Looking for a Nut

Who’s in the headline – Just over a year ago, Martin Truex, Jr. turned the Coca-Cola 600 into his own personal playground. Saturday wasn’t that level of dominant, but it was close. Truex has been very strong on 1.5-mile tracks since the marriage of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing at the beginning of 2016, and Saturday was another one of them. Truex led 152 of 274 laps to score the victory, including the final laps of each stage. Truex is well ahead in the race for playoff points and is now tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most wins of the season with three.

What happened – The race was dominated by Kyle Busch early, as he led 112 of the first 133 laps. Truex led the other 21. The race had a competition caution at lap 32, thanks to the rain that caused the postponement of the XFINITY Series race to Saturday. The second stage of the race had four different cautions, all for wrecks. There were two on-track passes for the lead. There were four different leaders, but Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led briefly due to pit strategies, not from speed. Kurt Busch blew an engine with two laps to go, which resulted in a Green-White-Checkered finish. Truex chose to stay out, while the other eight cars on the lead lap pitted for tires, some two and some four. In the end, Truex was able to get away on the final restart and no one could catch him.

Why you should care – The new point system is tailor-made for Truex. Last season he routinely led many laps early in races only to have something derail his efforts. With the stage races, Truex is racking up playoff points (28)), even when he doesn’t win. Add in the victories and he’s running away from the field. That should mean Truex will go far in the playoffs if he simply rides the coattails of his giant stockpile of playoff points.

What your friends are talking aboutMatt Kenseth made a statement on Friday that he does not have a ride for next year. Speculation on him sliding into the No. 88 car immediately flooded social media. The 45-year-old may be a great short term solution at Hendrick, but he seems more like a long term man. If he decides to stick around, it will most likely be in a ride he will keep for a while.

With the news of Kenseth most likely being out of a ride next year, the obvious assumption is that Erik Jones will fill that seat. That turns the light on the No. 77 team at Furniture Row Racing. For now, team owner Barney Visser says nothing concrete is in place and it all comes down to money. If they can’t find the sponsorship dollars to make it happen, the No. 77 team’s history may be a very short one.

Truex’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex was not in Victory Lane on Saturday night as she was back at home in the hospital, recovering from surgery for a recurrence of her ovarian cancer. Pollex has said all along that her form of cancer routinely has recurrences and most people don’t survive longer than five years. Truex said that the surgery went well and he’s going to take her home from the hospital when he returns to North Carolina.

Brad Keselowski was part of the first caution due to a wreck on lap 88. Afterward, he was very vocal about the car that is raced in the Cup series. He called it “poorly designed” multiple times, while blaming his incident on the air pulling his car around. When asked what he would suggest he did not offer a solution. With the aero dependency that has returned to the sport, something does need to change, because all of the action on the track now is centered on restarts.

Aric Almirola is going to test this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Depending on how his body responds, he could very well be back in the car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this coming weekend. The urge to drive a racecar is certainly strong, but hopefully he isn’t moving too quickly and putting himself in any unnecessary risk. The sport will be around for years to come, no need to rush back.

NASCAR is playing hardball with teams that are struggling to get through inspections. Obviously there does need to be tight adherence to the rule book. That said, there is still too much time spent on inspection on race weekends. Inspect random items each weekend on the cars. Post-qualifying go over the top five with a fine toothed comb. Then, post-race tear down the top five and a random car. Don’t bother dissecting each car when most of them aren’t competing for the win on a given weekend.

Who is mad – Keselowski has had great success at Kentucky, scoring three wins in seven starts. Unfortunately for Keselowski that success comes in even numbered years. In the odd years he’s had two finishes of worse than thirtieth. An early wreck put an end to his night before it really got going and ultimately caused a post race rant about the poorly designed car in the Cup series.

Even worse than Keselowski’s luck was Jimmie Johnson‘s. The seven-time champion with 83 career victories has three tracks where he has failed to win that are still on the Cup schedule: Chicago, Watkins Glen and Kentucky. Johnson had a top 10 in the first stage but was a victim in Keselowski’s wreck, putting an end to his night 87 laps into the event and giving him a last place finish, just the second of his career. Johnson now has to wait another year to try and knock Kentucky off of his list

Who is happy – Saturday may have been Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s last time in the No. 43 filling in for Almirola. When the checkered flag flew Wallace was in 11th place. He finished better in each of the four races he ran in the Richard Petty Motorsports ride. His average finish was 17.8. The sub role for Wallace was an audition for sure, and he proved he can get it done at the Cup level.

Kyle Larson started the race dead last thanks to failing to make it through pre-qualifying inspection. He marched through the field and nearly made it to the front before he had a pit road speeding penalty that sent him to the back again. He plodded through the field again and battled all of the way to second position when the checkered flag flew. On a night when passing was minimal, Larson passed most everyone in the field at least once on Saturday night and if there had been a few more laps he might have made the final pass.

When the checkered flag flew:

Martin Truex Jr. won the 10th race of his career in his 423rd career start.

This is Truex’s first triumph at Kentucky Motor Speedway.

Truex has three victories in 2017.

Ten career wins ties Truex with Donnie Allison and Sterling Marlin for 58th on the All-Time list.

Kyle Larson finished in the runner-up position for the first time in his career at Kentucky.

This is Larson’s 12th career second-place finish. He’s tied with Davey Allison, Neil Bonnett, and Jamie McMurray for 58th on the All-Time list.

Larson has scored eight top-two finishes in 2017.

Chase Elliott crossed the line in third-place for his fourth top-three finish of the season.

It is Elliott’s first podium finish at Kentucky in two attempts.

Elliott has nine career top-three finishes, which ranks him in a tie for 103rd on the All-Time list with ten other drivers.

Rookie of the Race was Erik Jones. That is his eighth such win of the year. Daniel Suarez has seven and Ty Dillon has three.

Eighteen races into the season there have been eleven different winners this year. With eight races left before the playoff cutoff, if there are seven new winners, someone with a win will not make the playoffs. That said, there most likely won’t be 17 unique winners. For now you have Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. tied with most wins of the year with three. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., with two wins, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, and Kevin Harvick with one each. In the eleven winners Joey Logano is not eligible for the playoffs by virtue of his triumph being considered encumbered at Richmond International Raceway in late April. Logano will have to win again to make the playoffs based on a victory, being seven markers behind Kenseth for the final playoff position.

The remaining six drivers in points and their positions:

3. Kyle Busch

5. Chase Elliott

6. Jamie McMurray

7. Denny Hamlin

10. Clint Bowyer

11. Matt Kenseth


The drivers who have scored playoff points so far this season and their totals:

Martin Truex Jr – 28

Jimmie Johnson – 16

Kyle Larson – 13

Brad Keselowski -13

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 10

Kevin Harvick – 8

Ryan Blaney – 8

Ryan Newman – 5

Kurt Busch – 5

Austin Dillon – 5

Kyle Busch – 4

Chase Elliott – 2

Denny Hamlin – 2

Matt Kenseth – 2

Joey Logano – 1

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

Some of them are barn burners and some of them are snoozers. For the second time in just over a year, Truex got to Victory Lane after dominating at a mile-an-a-half track. He won all three stages and really wasn’t pressed. The rest of the racing was rater bland as well. Mix it up, dump it out and you end up with an extremely bad cake. This one was a pretty bad example of a race. It gets one lukewarm Wiedemann’s from the George Wiedemann Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The series heads Northeast for some lobster and racing. New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be the site of next week’s festivities. The Cup series will race on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. It can also be streamed on the NBC Sports app or NBCsports.com You can listen to the race on your local PRN affiliate, goprn.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Oh dear God, the “long time” girlfriend NOT wifes health always seems to pop up at the most convenient of times. Seems Marty and NOT WIFE have mastered the art of self promotion due to a “girlfriends” illness.

They seem to have no humility or an understanding of privacy that they should have! What is Sherry teaching us about cancer? Like she is the only one? The only person? Attention is what they crave! High marks however for acumen in getting the social media idiots swoons and it bolsters his angle of “poor Marty, poor Sherry”. Many NASCAR drivers go thru hardships and sorrow and medical challenges. This “long time girl friend thing” with any NASCAR related media picking up anything “SHERRY” is a yawner and self serving! How calculating….IMO OF COURSE!


Self serving TROLL


Yes Yimmie, I expected the likes of you idiots not getting the big picture of what I saying. You don’t get it, you don’t get it. Great. But Yimmie,if you wanna discuss what I am saying, great. But I doubt it. This is rich “a self serving troll? How so Yimimie? How so? I have an opinion watching Sherry’s personal business molded into his professional business at great lengths, manipulatively so.. imo. And I am a self serving troll???????? Ah, ok.


Wow, you’ve got to be one of the saddest excuses for a human being I’ve ever come across. You seem to be completely heartless, letting so many drivers or their significant others ruin your life in such an ugly way. I hope you are able to find some happiness in your life at some point. Life is too short to be so miserable all the time.

Bill B

“Attention is what they crave!”

Agreed. I would argue that anyone that uses Facebook or Twitter to post personal information or events in their personal life craves attention. That’s why I hate social media. It feeds the narcissism in people.

With that said, given all the tweets and facebook postings of personal information going on every day by most of the drivers, why single out Martin and Sherry?

How is it any different from someone posting pictures of their child’s birthday, or their wedding day?

Tim S.

It’s at least a 30/70 split between cancer awareness and “hey, look at me!” Reminds me of the way one of the super-teams (everyone calls the owner “Mr.”) would seemingly put out a press release every time they performed any philanthropic act. We know who the real beneficiaries are supposed to be.


Wow kb. WTH is your point … has nothing to do with the race

Just J-Dawg

Hmm, same initials as a couple of other d-bags associated with NASCAR. How fitting. Leave ’em alone.

Tom B

KB is telling it like he sees it. I see where he is coming from. Of course he is going to get bashed. Ray Evernham was the same way with his kid. Then when he was asked about new girlfriend Erin, he said his life is private. Remember Kurt Busch’s girlfriend with her charity? How did that end up? I just don’t like having stuff like this constantly being in my face when legitimate racing news is not being reported.

Bill B

Terrible coverage by NBC on Saturday night. There were long stretches where no time intervals were shown on the ticker. I found that very irritating because without it I can’t really follow what is happening in the race.

Wow, we actually got a green flag pit stop sequence. Since the advent of stage racing green flag pit stops are becoming as rare as blue moons.


Martin and Sherri do a tremendous amount of work and awareness and fund raising fir both ovarian cancer and children with cancer. She has been an inspiration during her fight, and so has Martin.

Whenever she’s not at track I get concerned about her cancer coming back.


Nascar is playing with fire with the late start time this weekend at NH. Late afternoon thunderstorms are common this time of the year in NE. There are already ticked off fans in these parts for having a race taken away. Having to postpone a race because of late start times due to catering to the networks probably isn’t in their best interest.


Not to mention that 3:00 in NASCAR speak, at a minimum, means 3:20.


Is it really necessary to throw a competition caution when there was a 300 mile product completed there just hours earlier?


In my opinion, no! Not like it had rained and washed the rubber off the track. Tv caution, in my opinion.

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