Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Martin Truex victory keeps Toyota perfect in NASCAR's playoffs

CONCORD, N.C. — Martin Truex gave Toyota another victory in NASCAR's playoffs — the manufacturer is 4-for-4 — by winning the Bank of America 500 on a humid Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Truex has two wins in the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, and this one gets him an automatic berth into the next round. It's the first time in this format that Toyota has won a race in this round of postseason.

"Just a total team effort," Truex said. "Every single guy, every guy on this team just did a perfect job. I don't know if we had the best car, but we damn sure got it in victory lane."

Kyle Busch, winner of the previous two playoff races, wrecked early in the race yet completed it in a damaged race car.

Complaining most of the 500 miles of being overheated, he needed immediate medical attention afterward. Packs of ice were placed on his chest, and a stretcher was brought to him. Once he felt strong enough, he walked to an ambulance and received oxygen to treat a high carbon monoxide level.

"I felt like I was having heatstroke," Busch said.

The humidity drained several drivers, including Truex, who had to catch his breath after taking his sixth victory.

"Seeing how whipped he was, was kind of a shock," crew chief Cole Pearn said.

Truex has proven weekly he's the driver to beat in this championship race, and did it again Sunday by working with his Furniture Row Racing team to steadily improve his car through the first two stages of the race. The first two stage victories went to Kevin Harvick, and Truex didn't earn Stage 1 playoff points for the first time since July, but he was untouchable by the final segment.

He was at this point a year ago, too, but he had difficulties in the second round of the playoffs and was eliminated.

Not this time.

This statement victory ensured he'll be in the third round of the playoffs. He choked back tears in victory lane in part because partner Sherry Pollex, who is battling ovarian cancer, was not at the track. She has a chemotherapy session scheduled today.

He was also overwhelmed at what an incredible season he's had. Truex leads the series in wins, stage wins and playoff points — and, if he had some better luck, he figures he should have at least 10 wins already this season.

"It was everything. I couldn't hold it in anymore," Truex said. "I thought about Sherry. I thought about winning the first race of this round, I thought about a lot of things, and I just lost it for a minute. It shows just how much this stuff means to us. We put everything into this, everything we have."

Truex won in overtime after two late cautions created extra laps and forced Truex to hold off fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin on a pair of restarts.

Chase Elliott finished second for the second consecutive week and sixth time in his career.

FORMULA ONE: Championship leader Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, taking a major step toward winning his fourth series title. The Mercedes driver finished 1.2 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen to claim his eighth victory of the season. Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was third. Hamilton moved 59 points ahead of title rival Sebastian Vettel with four races left. Vettel retired on the third lap when his Ferrari lost power.

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