Saturday, June 23, 2018
Sports

Martin Truex sets record for dominance in winning Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600

CONCORD, N.C. — Martin Truex didn't avoid ladders or black cats, never worried about cracking mirrors or stepping on cracks. He knew his bad luck in Sprint Cup would change.

Truex showed that in a big way Sunday night, leading 588 of 600 miles — a NASCAR record — to win the Coca-Cola 600 and break free of the bad luck that seemed to hit him when dominating races.

"There's a lot of emotion right now, not real sure it's sunk in yet," Truex said. "Real amazing weekend, the kind you dream about."

Especially when things have gone as wrong as they had for Truex and his single-car Furniture Row team the past year.

He led 141 laps at Texas, yet got strung up by poor pit strategy and finished sixth. This month at Kansas, he was out front for 172 laps until a loose wheel knocked him back to 14th.

A year ago here, Truex led the most laps at 131 but fell to fifth when he pitted for fuel late and four cars, including winner Carl Edwards, stayed out.

Truex never let it get to him.

"I had confidence. I had faith," he said.

Truex won for the fourth time in NASCAR's top series and the first time since last June at Pocono.

Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.

Truex's win finished Memorial Day weekend's mega-day of high-end racing that began with Lewis Hamilton's win at the Grand Prix of Monaco and continued with American rookie Alexander Rossi's surprise triumph in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Truex took the surprise out of this one early on his way to all but clinching a spot in the season-ending Chase for the Championship. He was passed by Johnson on a restart 55 laps from the end, but Truex went back in front a lap later and was not pushed again.

Truex bettered Jim Paschal's mark of leading 335 laps to win at Charlotte in 1967, outclassing the armada of multicar Sprint Cup powerhouses.

Four-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Johnson was on Truex's door a handful of times on restarts, then would fade back. Harvick, who won here in 2011 and 2013, was the best of rest as he got by Johnson 44 laps from the end — yet never made a serious run at the top.

Truex's Toyota was so fast that no one passed him all night during green flag racing. The only time he gave up the lead was when he pitted and others stayed on the track.

"I mean, they have had a few runs where they have just been the class of the field and things have kept them from Victory Lane," Johnson said. "Tonight, he wasn't going to be denied. There was no way around that."

Owner Roger Penske, who had a disappointing day at Indianapolis, hoped to rebound with his NASCAR duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, who won the All-Star Race last week at CMS.

But Logano was set back by a pit road penalty, and Keselowski never made a serious challenge.

NASCAR's longest race of the season was also among its cleanest, with just four cautions — and one of those was to check tire wear over the first 25 laps. The four caution periods took up just 19 laps, leading to Charlotte records for fastest average speed (160.644 mph) and fastest race (3 hours, 44 minutes, 8 seconds).

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