Furniture Row Racing

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Richmond

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Photo by: Robert Laberge  

The second race in the Round of 16 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs was dominated by the Big 3, with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch taking the victory.

The Big 3 of Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. finished 1-2-3, combining for 295 laps led.

Two of Harvick’s teammates make this week’s Top 5, as well as a former three-time winner at Richmond Raceway.

No. 1 Clint Bowyer – Clint Bowyer struggled throughout the beginning of Saturday night’s race, finishing outside the top 10 in Stage 1 and Stage 2.

Bowyer earned a 10th place finish despite his struggles, gaining 14 positions from one year ago.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver sits 13th in the playoff standings heading into the elimination road course race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He is four points behind Ryan Blaney, who is in the cutoff position.

No. 2 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola earned his second top-5 finish of the season, finishing in the fifth position.

Almirola earned stage points in Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (third).

Almirola is sixth in the playoff standings, two points from Joey Logano in fifth and 62 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr.

No. 3 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson earned his ninth top-10 of 2018 on Saturday, finishing eighth.

Johnson, a three time winner at Richmond Raceway, failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but finished Stage 2 in the eighth position.

Johnson is one of four drivers below the cutoff heading in Sunday’s elimination event. He sits 14th, six points behind Blaney.

No. 4 Austin Dillon – Austin Dillon finished in the sixth position on Saturday, earning him his fifth top 10 of the season.

Dillon failed to earn stage points in Stage 1 and Stage 2, but gained 15 positions from his finish at the .75-mile track one year ago.

The Richard Childress Racing driver is tied with Chase Elliott in the playoff standings for ninth, 75 points behind Truex.

No. 5 Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. dominated at Richmond Raceway once again, leading 163 of 400 laps.

Truex earned stage points by winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2, before bringing his No. 78 Auto-Owner’s Insurance Toyota home to a third place finish.

Truex remains the points leader by 16 points over race winner Kyle Busch and 28 points over Harvick.

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In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Sonoma

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Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series return from an off weekend and head West to the first road course of the season at Sonoma Raceway in California.

The Toyota/Save Mart 350 quickly became a strategic race, with a trick play eventually becoming the winning move of the race.

Three young guns and two veterans had impressive runs at Sonoma. Here’s how they stack up.

No. 1 Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. earned his third win of the season at Sonoma Raceway in one of the most unusual strategic plays not only of this season, but the last five.

Truex opted to pit on Lap 73 of 110, but plans changed last minute at the order of crew chief Cole Pearn. That wasn’t the only thing that put Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team ahead, because Kevin Harvick pitted despite the No. 78 Chevrolet diverting from the plan.

The move became a race winning one that included only one pit stop, on Lap 81, that eventually gave him more than a 20-second lead over Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott.

The win is Truex’s second at the 1.99-mile road course and the 18th of his career. He sits fifth in the points standings, 150 points behind leader Kyle Busch.

No. 2 Erik Jones – Erik Jones was a quiet contender on Sunday. He failed to earn stage points, but held a 14th place average and was inside the top 10 at the halfway point.

Jones earned his sixth top-10 finish of the year, finishing seventh. He gained 18 positions from a year ago, when he finished 25th in his first start at the track.

Jones is 14th in the points standings, 320 points behind Busch and 95 points from Almirola in 10th place.

No. 3 Chase Elliott – Chase Elliott’s experience on road courses may be low compared to his teammate Jimmie Johnson, but Elliott is consistently showing improvements.

Elliott earned stage points in Stage 1 (fourth) and Stage 2 (second) on Sunday, before scoring his fourth top-5 finish of the season.

Elliott finished fourth for his first top 5 since placing third at Talladega in April. He sits 13th in the points, 285 points behind Busch and 60 behind Almirola.

Elliott holds one Xfinity win at Chicagoland. Can he earn his first MENCS win next weekend?

No. 4 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola’s eighth place finish was an impressive trek considering the Stewart-Haas Racing driver hasn’t raced on the road course since 2016.

Almirola earned stage points in Stage 1 (seventh) and Stage 2 (sixth), and had an average position of 15th throughout the event.

The finish is Almirola’s first top 10 at Sonoma.

Almirola is 10th in the points standings heading into Chicagoland. He is 225 points behind Busch and 34 points from Denny Hamlin, who is eighth.

No. 5 Alex Bowman – Alex Bowman rebounded from the less than stellar performances at Pocono and Michigan, and matched his finish at Charlotte four weeks ago.

Bowman failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with a seventh place finish.

He went on to finish ninth for his fifth top-10 finish of the year. He sits 15th in the standings, 333 points behind Busch.

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.

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.

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.

Martin Truex Jr. Dominates at Kentucky

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Photo by: Sarah Crabill

Martin Truex Jr. dominated Saturday night’s Quaker State 400, leading more than 150 laps and securing both Stage 1 and Stage 2 wins, before earning his third win of the season.

Truex held a 15 second lead on the final lap, but that diminished when the No. 41 of Kurt Busch blew an engine. The caution allowed the leaders to pit, but the No. 78 team elected not to.

“I thought we were dead,” Truex said. “I thought we were done.”

Truex could not be denied however, and with a push from Kyle Larson, he got by Kyle Busch and quickly extended his lead during the overtime finish.

“Fortunately (I was) able to hold them off. This thing was just so stout tonight. A good push from Larson (on the final restart) helped us a bunch.”

Larson finished second after starting in the rear of the field and overcoming a speeding penalty on Lap 88. Larson retains the series regular points standings lead, but only by one point over Truex.

A multi-car crash ended the day for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson as well as and Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, which also collected Clint Bowyer. 

Keselowski’s car got loose right after the start of Stage 2 that also sent the No. 14 spinning and Johnson in the wall. Johnson ultimately didn’t have anywhere else to go and sustained heavy damage to his Lowe’s Chevrolet.

Chase Elliott earned his sixth top-5 this season with a finish of third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Bubba Wallace earned a career best finish of 11th in his fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup start. Wallace has been substituting for the injured Aric Almirola, who is expected to return next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The MENCS head to New Hampshire on Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 3 p.m ET on NBC Sports Network.

Martin Truex Jr. tames the Monster Mile

Photo by: Sean Gardner

Martin Truex Jr. continued his dominance with his victory in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway. Truex led the most laps of six drivers Sunday with 187 laps, scoring his third win within the last five races.

“I guess right now it’s just our time,” Truex said. “Throughout the summer, we led so many laps and had so many great race cars and so many great weekends that things would happen [and we’d lose].”

“Sometimes it was just rotten luck, sometimes it was mistakes or just circumstances that didn’t play out. But I think that the biggest thing is we just kept our heads in the game. We stayed focused on the things that truly matter, and when all that bad luck went away, here we are. I mean, it’s just been amazing.”

But right now that rotten luck has vanished for the time being, shifting to Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson. The Lowe’s Chevrolet team continues to stumble on mistakes that could have been prevented.

The No. 48 was hit with a penalty after a crewman went over the pit wall too early during a stop, forcing Johnson to return to pit road under green. Johnson battled back for a seventh place finish, but did not get the chance to contend for the win after leading 90 laps.

Johnson held a significant cushion to advance into the Round of 12. Those not as fortunate were Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, and Chris Buescher.

Both Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson failed to advance after being hit with their own misfortunes. McMurray suffered through a blown engine on Lap 193 after complaining of a vibration. Larson, who held the last advancing spot coming into Dover, finished 25th after hitting the wall.

Austin Dillon took advantage of the day, finishing eighth and advancing into the next round of the Chase. The driver remained focused during the race without worrying about where he stood in the Chase.

“I knew what we had to do.” He said.

The Round of 12 drivers head into Charlotte with a clean slate as the points reset to 3,000 each for the championship contenders. While there may be clear favorites, everyone is fair game and looking to lock themselves in early.