2017 NASCAR Season

Truex wins at Homestead for Championship

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 400
Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

Martin Truex Jr. didn’t think about what being a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion would feel like prior to the Ford EcoBoost 400. He didn’t think about it during Sunday’s event either.

It wasn’t until the Furniture Row Racing crossed the finish line for the eighth time this season that the 37-year-old got emotional.

“I couldn’t even talk,” he said. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with, the times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the guys who mattered did — my fans, my family and then when I got with this team.

“They are unbelievable and they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”

Despite being the team to beat throughout the 2017 season the No. 78 team was looked at as the underdog, looking to defeat the odds for a storybook-type ending.

And they did. Time after time after time. The result ending with Truex earning his first career MENCS championship with eight wins, 19 top-5s, and 26 top-10 finishes.

“Honestly, it’s just a lot of love on our team,” said (crew chief) Cole Pearn. “We all believe in each other and believe if you live your lives right, good things will come. We’ve been together a long time and we battle like brothers. All I did the last few laps was think of my friend Jake and his family.

“It’s just unbelievable we’ve been able to do this. I’m still speechless about it. I just hope that what comes out of this are accolades for (what) an unbelievably good driver Martin is.”

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 400
Photo by: Brian Lawdermilk

Sherry Pollex, Truex’s longtime girlfriend, reaffirmed that statement.

“I told him that’s why you never give up, because these guys are so cool,” Pollex said. “That’s been our motto all along, ever since I started my cancer battle. We are never going to give up and we didn’t.”

The conclusion of the finale at Homestead potentially marked the ending of three full-time Cup drivers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who announced his retirement in April, finished 25th in his last race. The 14-time winner of the Most Popular Driver award ends with 26 career wins, including two victories of the Daytona 500 (2004, 2014).

Matt Kenseth, who is being replaced at Joe Gibbs Racing by Erik Jones, finished eighth. Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for 2018 and has stated he is not actively looking, however he will not call it a retirement.

Danica Patrick finished 37th in a 39-car field in what will be her second-to-last start. Patrick will race in the 2018 Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 before calling it quits.

Kyle Busch finished second to Truex, followed by Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott. Brad Keselowski finished seventh.

Kevin Harvick Earns Texas Victory

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Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Kevin Harvick became “The Closer” once again for the second time this season, passing Martin Truex Jr. in the final laps at Texas Motor Speedway to earn his first career win at the 1.5-mile track.

Harvick’s 37th career victory guarantees him a chance to battle for the 2017 championship at Homestead in two weeks.

“This feels so good,” Harvick said, “We have been qualifying well here and racing well ever since I have been at Stewart-Haas Racing and just never got it to work out to go to Victory Lane. Today we had to earn it. To be able to pass the 78 car for the win is something that is huge for our confidence and team knowing we need to go to another 1.5 mile (track) at Homestead to race for the championship.”

Truex finished second after leading 107 of 334 laps, but the Furniture Row Racing driver still has reason to celebrate. Truex secured his way into the Championship 4 based on points, joining Harvick and Kyle Busch in the final round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

“At the start of the race, our car wasn’t very good,” Truex said. “Track position was a big part of this race. We fought the car. We fought track position. We got the lead, led some laps. Ultimately, at the end, we weren’t as good as we needed to be to win.”

“A little disappointed to come up short, but to clinch a spot in Miami is unbelievable. Definitely got the job done today and came here and did what we needed to do.”

Matt Kenseth earned his first top-5 finish since Loudon in September, one day after saying that he will likely step away from Cup full-time at season’s end. He led 29 laps before finishing fourth.

Kyle Larson hit the wall and ended up in flames on Lap 282. The incident was the driver’s third weekend in a row which ended in finishes of 37th or worse.

Last week’s winner and Brad Keselowski were also faced with trouble on the first lap of the event. The two made contact and were forced to pit to access damages. Keselowski rebounded and finished fifth, while Busch had additional issues on Lap 275. He finished in the 19th position.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 12th to set the field for the Championship 4.

Five different drivers (Keselowski, Hamlin, Blaney, Elliott, and Johnson) are left with only one spot available. Who will advance? Find out on November 12th at 2:30 p.m ET on the NBC Sports Network.

Kyle Busch Wins at Martinsville in Overtime

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Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

Kyle Busch won for the fifth time this season and the crowd booed, but not for the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.

The chants were for Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin was running second with three laps to go when he put the nose of his Toyota to the back of the No. 24 of Chase Elliott, spinning the driver and stripping him of his first career win.

The incident sent the First Data 500 into overtime and ended after a multi-car incident on the frontstrech. Busch beat Martin Truex Jr. to the line by .141 seconds, for the second time at “The Paperclip” and the 43rd time of his career.

The win earns Busch a place in the Final 4 for the third straight year.

“I wanted to get a better restart, pinch Denny down a little bit, but it actually kind of worked out better for me that he got ahead a little bit, gave me a gap,” Busch said. “I got down (to the inside lane), and he got into Turn 3 and just pushed up the race track and I knew I had to plug that hole right away cause I was just going to get beat on from behind,

“So I got up in there and rooted him out of the way a little bit, and we drag-raced down the front straightaway and deep into (Turn) 1, I just wheel-hopped, chattered the rear tires and it was sideways getting in there trying to calm it down with the brakes and everything else. Was able to get through there luckily somehow – I don’t know how – and beat Truex off of (Turn) 4 back to the start/finish line.”

Brad Keselowski finished fourth after leading 108 laps and securing both stage wins. Keselowski fell short of a victory after contact with Elliott sent the Team Penske driver up the track and out of contention for the win in the Round of 8.

Joey Logano finished in the 24th position after a tire rub sent the driver of the No. 22 spinning on Lap 492.

Elliott obtained the lead on the restart, but was pumped from behind by the No. 11 FedEx Walgreen’s Toyota of Hamlin.

Elliott showed his displeasure by engaging in a heated discussion with Hamlin on the backstretch, but remained poised in his remarks about the incident.

“I got punted from behind and wrecked in Turn 3 leading the race,” Elliott said. “I don’t know what his problem was. It was unnecessary. I hadn’t raced him dirty all day long. There was no reason for that, and he comes over and talks to me a second ago and tells me he had somebody pushing him into Turn 3.

“I thought that was funny, because there was nobody within two car lengths of him into Turn 3 behind myself. I don’t know what the deal was, but it is so disappointing. We had the best car I’ve ever had here at Martinsville. And had an opportunity to go straight to Homestead and because of him, we don’t.”

Elliott sits eighth in the Playoff standings, 90 points behind the leader and 26 behind Kevin Harvick, who holds the last seed into the Final 4 at Homestead.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Texas Motor Speedway on November 5th. Who will be the next to earn their chance at the 2017 championship? Will a non-playoff driver play spoiler?

Find out November 5, 2017 at 2 p.m ET on the NBC Sports Network.

Martin Truex Jr. overcomes obstacles at Kansas


Photo by: Sarah Crabill

Martin Truex Jr. has battled many obstacles during his 14 years in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He overcame them once again Sunday, earning his seventh trip to Victory Lane this season.

Truex, who started from the pole, received a restart penalty in the early stages of the Hollywood Casino 400 after the Furniture Row Racing driver went below the white line before reaching the start/finish line.

Truex remained on the lead lap after serving a pass-through penalty, but an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 91 put them one lap behind the leader.

Truex became the first driver in history to sweep both races at Kansas Speedway, just hours after the sudden death of road-crew fabricator Jim Watson.

“Just can’t say enough about all these guys on this Furniture Row/Bass Pro Toyota,” Truex said. “Just really proud of them. Definitely racing with heavy hearts today with losing Jim (Watson) last night. Want to send our condolences to his family and all of his friends. He was a heck of a guy and a great worker and put a lot of speed in these Furniture Row Toyotas, so glad we could get him one here.”

“Excited to get another one here at Kansas. This feels really awesome. It’s really Furniture Row’s home track. It just feels really good to finally get – to finally get another one here. We got that one in the spring after so many heartbreaks, and then today it looked like it was going to happen and we just persevered.”

Four drivers were eliminated from advancing into the Round of 8, ending their chance of becoming the 2017 champion. Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Larson were among the bottom four at the conclusion of the second elimination race of the MENCS Playoffs.

Larson, who was third in the standings coming into the weekend, failed to advance after the engine in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet expired during Stage 2 of the event. As a result, Larson finished in the 39th position and ninth in the standings – nine points behind defending champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson went through his own troubles that put his chances of an eighth championship in jeopardy. The Hendrick Motorsports driver spun twice within five laps, but received a break on Lap 198.

Kenseth, who was 1 of 14 involved in a crash, was parked by NASCAR after having too many men over the wall working on the No. 20 Toyota.

Kurt Busch finished second, his best finish since winning the Daytona 500 in February. Ryan Blaney finished third, while Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-5.

Chris Buescher finished sixth to match his best finish of the season at Michigan in August. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh, his seventh top-10 of the season.

Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola finished eighth and ninth, respectively. Kyle Busch finished 10th.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to the Paper Clip on Sunday, October 29th to kickoff the third round of the Playoffs. Coverage at Martinsville starts at 3 p.m ET on the NBC Sports Network.

Kyle Busch Wins at New Hampshire

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Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Kyle Busch secured his way into Round 2 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with his win Sunday during the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch led 187 of 300 laps toward his third win of the season. The win is also the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s third win at the 1.058-mile track and the 41st of his career.

Busch missed being in a multi-car wreck on Lap 150 when the No. 3 of Austin Dillon made contact with Kevin Harvick. The contact ultimately turned the 2014 MENCS Champion sideways.

Harvick’s teammate Kurt Busch and Jeffrey Earnhardt had nowhere to go when they hit the Mobil 1 Ford.

“That was pretty intense,” Busch said “That was some ‘Days of Thunder’ stuff over there. You couldn’t see anything. It was just a wall of smoke over there off of Turn 2. I was listening to my spotter and basically was told to stop, and I was like ‘Sounds like a good idea.’

“I just checked up as much as I could. Of course, I was trying not to get run into from behind. I didn’t know who was behind me – I knew Matt (Kenseth) was there. But all in all, just a great day. We ran up front all day long, we executed, we did what we were supposed to do, and it’s awesome to win here in the Granite State in front of these fans.”

Kasey Kahne heads to the Monster Mile as the No. 16 seed in the playoff standings. The Hendrick Motorsport driver is in a must-win situation after a broken rear suspension sent him to the garage for repairs on Lap 263.

Kahne returned, but finished in the 35th position, 11 laps behind the leader.

Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski clinched their positions into the Round of 12 based on points. Larson finished second, while Keselowski finished fourth, his 12th top-5 of the season.

The MENCS head to Dover International Speedway on Sunday, October 1st, where eight positions are on the line to remain in contention for the 2017 Championship.

Will Jimmie Johnson recover from his summer slump and find Victory Lane at the track he hold 11 victories at? Find out on October 1, 2017 at 2 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

Kyle Larson Wins at Richmond, Playoff field is set

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Photo by: Sarah Crabill

Kyle Larson earned his fourth win of the season Saturday night at Richmond Raceway in overtime, after the No. 15 of Derrick Cope scraped the wall to bring out the seventh caution of the night.

Larson won the race off pit road and took the lead on Lap 403 during the Federated Auto Parts 400, but contact between the No. 11 and No. 78 Toyota’s sent Truex into the Turn 1 wall.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” Larson said. “That showed tonight. I can’t thank those guys enough. They were money all night long to gain spots. This win is a huge congrats to them. The Target Chevy was pretty good all night. The No. 78 (Truex) was definitely the best, but I thought I was second best for most of the runs.

“It came down to the last restart there, and I got a good start. I spun my tires pretty bad, and I was a little nervous, but we cleared him (Truex) into (Turn) 1, and I was pretty excited about that. I’m really pumped for the playoffs. We’ve got a great shot at the championship, I feel like, this year. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Truex, the regular-season champion, finished 20th, while Hamlin earned a top-5 finish.

Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and Matt Kenseth all earned their way into the 2017 Playoffs based off points, but it was the Joe Gibbs Racing driver who experienced the most pressure.

Kenseth’s day concluded after suffering damage in the most intense way.

An ambulance stopped on the apron before the pit road entrance and drivers scrambled to avoid the vehicle, but Kenseth was not that fortunate. Kenseth plunged into the back of the No. 14 Ford of Clint Bowyer.

Joey Logano, who’s win in April was deemed encumbered, was in a must-win situation to make the playoffs. The Team Penske driver came up one position short of the victory.

“Yeah, it stings a little bit,” Logano said. “Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win, and this time it’s after a second, which overall if you look at our Richmond (record) for a season with the two races, you’d say, that’s pretty good, a first and a second.”

“But just overall, obviously it stings to come up one spot short and not be able to get into the playoffs. It is what it is. It’s reality, and we will move on.”

Ryan Newman finished third, while Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 5.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Chicagoland Speedway on September 17 to kickoff the start of the playoffs. Truex won the event a year ago, while Elliott finished third after leading 75 laps.

Can Elliott earn his first career MENCS victory and punch his ticket into the next round? Find out on September 17, 2017 at 3 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

Denny Hamlin wins the Southern 500

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Photo by: Matt Sullivan

Denny Hamlin battled through some adversity Sunday night, but that didn’t hinder the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the win or pulling into Victory Lane.

The “Flying 11” did exactly that after Hamlin made a mistake with 44 laps remaining in the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Hamlin missed the entrance to pit road and was forced to come back around for his final pit stop of the night, exiting in the 14th position.

Hamlin drove through traffic while cutting into Martin Truex Jr’s lead, and regained on Lap 365 when Truex cut a tire.

“That’s as hard as I can drive,” Hamlin said, “What can I say–it’s the flying 11. It means everything to me. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, this is a throwback to my history – this is for Ray Hendrick, Bugs Hairfield, Wayne Patterson, Eddie Johnson, the short track guys that I grew up watching.”

Hamlin swept the weekend at Darlington Raceway just as he did seven years ago, when he last won the prestigious event.

“This one’s sweeter,” he acknowledged, “going through the adversity we did.”

Truex, who finished eighth despite his late trouble, clinched the regular season Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship after leading 34 laps and winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the event.

“It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car,” Truex said. “I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night. I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on.”

Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-5, while Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Truex, Kevin Harvick, and Jamie McMurray finished inside the top-10.

Only one race remains for someone to make their way into the playoffs with a win. Chase Elliott, Kensth, and McMurray remain on the bubble, and Clint Bowyer is on the outside looking in.

A win is now Bowyer’s only chance. He finished last after suffering an engine failure on Lap 18.

The MENCS head to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 9th for the last race before the start of the 2017 playoff season. Hamlin is the defending race winner. Can he win for the second week in a row?

Find out Saturday, September 9th at 7:30 p.m ET on NBC Sports Network.

Kyle Busch completes weekend sweep at Bristol

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

Rowdy Nation rejoiced while everyone else showed their displeasure as Kyle Busch done his signature bow after winning the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch led 156 laps and held off a charging Erik Jones for his third win of the weekend. Busch competed in, and won, both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series races at the half-mile track.

“Man, Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight,” Busch said of the 21-year-old Furniture Row Racing driver. Jones led the most laps and battled with Busch through lapped traffic, before falling into second place. Jones held onto the position while charging to get closer to the No. 18 Toyota Camry.

But Jones was left with the best finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

“You don’t want to sound like you’re whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it’s a bummer,” said Jones, who started on the pole and led 260 of 500 laps before posting a career-best finish. “It hurts. You know, you want to win every race you’re in. This was the first shot that I really had to come really close to it in the Cup Series.”

Busch regained the lead on Lap 445 as Jones and Kenseth got behind lapped traffic. The win is Busch’s second victory this season and 40th of his career, tying NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Mark Martin. Busch is also the only active driver to win six races at Bristol.

“Can’t say enough about everybody on my Joe Gibbs Racing team. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and the guys are phenomenal. Car might not have been perfect, but I’m never perfect. I never feel like we’re perfect, but this Caramel Camry was fast. So proud of these guys, so proud of my team, so proud of Joe Gibbs Racing. So proud of Rowdy Nation, this one’s for you.”

Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished third and fourth, respectively, earning Toyota the first four finishing positions. Kurt Busch finished fifth to round out the top-five.

Trevor Bayne finished sixth for his fourth top-10 finish of 2017.

Chase Elliott remains 14th in the playoff standings, 69 points to the good, after finishing in the 18th position. Elliott was involved in a crash on Lap 396 with Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon, and Aric Almirola.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on September 3, 2017 for the third annual throwback weekend. 

Multiple drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Danica Patrick are set to race paint schemes to honor drivers of seasons past. The celebrated time period of the 2017 season is 1985-1989.

Don’t miss the thriller in two weeks on September 3rd at 6 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

Kyle Larson wins Pure Michigan 400

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Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Kyle Larson boldly took advantage of a late-race restart to secure his third consecutive win in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Larson restarted fourth in overtime after Michael McDowell and Paul Menard spun, but gained the lead after taking it four wide in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet with Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, and Martin Truex Jr. Larson led just the final two laps to earn the fourth win of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

“Awesome finish for us” Larson said, “We definitely didn’t have the car that we had here the last two times we won, but we kept fighting. Probably even harder than we did in those other two wins.”

Larson joins NASCAR Hall of Fame members David Pearson and Bill Elliott to win three consecutive races at the two-mile track.

Truex finished second .310 seconds behind Larson after leading 57 laps.

“We got beat fair and square,” Truex said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. Double‑file restarts are tricky, and I had good restarts all day I felt like, and we had that red flag for the first time and really just sat there while I got the tires cold and then only had one lap to come to the green and get some heat back in them, and I just struggled getting going, just spun the tires. I didn’t really expect it because I hadn’t had any trouble with that all day.”

Erik Jones finished third, followed by Ryan Newman and Trevor Bayne. Chris Buescher finished sixth, his third top-10 finish within four weeks.

The race remained quiet, with Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. earning the stage victories, until Lap 139 when the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne slid up the race track and collected Joe Gibb Racing’s Daniel Suarez.

Suarez and Kahne finished 37th and 38th, respectively.

The MENCS head to Bristol, Tennessee on Saturday, July 19th for the 24th race of the season with three races remaining in the regular season. Truex leads Larson over a hundred points in the standings.

Don’t miss the Last Great Colosseum under the lights on July 19th at 7:30 p.m ET on NBC.

Martin Truex Jr. wins at the Glen

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I Love NY 355 at The Glen
Photo by: Jeff Zelevansky

Martin Truex Jr’s hatred for fuel mileage races may have drifted due to his win in Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Truex began saving fuel early, letting Brad Keselowski pass him with less than 15 laps to go, in hopes he would have enough to make it to the end for a chance at the second road course victory of his MENCS career.

The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota did.

“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment,” Truex said “Just because I’ve been thinking about this one a long time – all weekend, all day,”

The strategy paid off for Truex because both Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney had to pit for a splash of fuel. Truex regained the lead with three laps remaining and held off a charging Matt Kenseth to earn his fourth win in 2017.

“At the end there, just it’s so hard there to let guys pass you for the lead. You’ve just got to listen to your crew chief and, luckily for me, I’ve got the best one in the business, and I just believe in him so much, and I just do what he says and it seems to work out.”

Kenseth finished second to earn his sixth top-5 finish this season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is still looking for a win to secure his ticket to the playoffs with four races remaining in the regular season.

“I felt like we had a top-five car. Obviously, we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it’s that close and you see him saving and you’re saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it’s disappointing not to get it. Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6, I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to have a shot,’ and he was so fast I still couldn’t get to him getting into (Turn) 7.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished last after an early exit due to a valve train issue. Earnhardt took his Chevrolet to the garage after falling off pace at the end of the first stage.

“We can’t fix it, but it’s just been a really difficult week,” Earnhardt said. “We’ve been way down on speed and we had a pretty good car for Sonoma, so I was kind of looking forward to coming here.”

Kyle Busch battled back from early pit stop problems to finish inside the top-10. Busch was forced to pit a second time under caution at the end of Stage 1 for a loose wheel.

Busch restarted in the back of the field, but made his way back inside the top-10 before making contact with Keselowski within the bus stop. Busch finished seventh while Keselowski finished in the 15th position.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan on August 13th for the Pure Michigan 400 at 3 p.m ET on NBC Sports.