To put it simply, Martin Truex Jr. has been on rails this season. Heading into this weekend, the Mayetta, NJ native had accumulated five wins and led over 1,800 laps. The Furniture Row Racing team has seemed invincible, bringing un-paralled speed to each track on the circuit. But for a majority of the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Truex and his FRR team seemed to struggle. The No.78 was seventh in the weekend’s only practice session, but the car didn’t seem to have it’s normal speed. In Friday evening’s qualifying session, Truex failed to make it to the final round of qualifying for only the second time in the last 12 events.
Truex lined up 17th for the start of Sunday’s Bank of America 500, and the team was hopeful that they’d be able to make some ground up in the first part of the race. That’s not what happened though, as Truex struggled to move forward with an ill-handling car early on. For the first time since Daytona in July, the No.78 team failed to finish inside the top-10 in the first stage of the race.
But as Stage Two got underway, they began to turn things around.
As Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick swapped the lead out front, Truex began to gain some momentum. With a combination of adjustment calls and quick pit stops, Truex inched his way into the top-10 and then some. As the green and white checkered flag flew signaling the conclusion of Stage Two, Truex had worked his way up to fourth.
As their steamroll of positive energy continued, Stage Three began to fall right into the No.78 team’s hands. Truex had found his way to the front, and had the race lead in sight. As the field came down pit road with just over 100 laps to go, Truex’s team performed a blinding fast pit stop. The stop was quick enough to get Truex off pit road in front of Harvick, giving Truex the race lead.
Truex battled Harvick and Kyle Larson multiple times for the lead throughout the latter part of the race. The No.42 and No.4 were some of the strongest cars all day at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but Truex wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Throughout a rash of late race cautions and even an overtime finish, Truex pulled his gloves tight and got up on the wheel. As the checkered flag flew, Truex, one whom many didn’t think had a shot, crossed the finish line first.
“Unbelievable win. Just a total team effort,” said Truex in Victory Lane. “Every single guy – every guy on this team just did a perfect job today and I can’t be more proud of them and at this time of the year is just when you want it to happen. You dream about days like today. I don’t know if we had the best car, but we damn sure go it in victory lane”
Sunday’s victory in the Bank of America 500 was Truex’s sixth of the 2017 season, and his second career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway. For Truex and his No.78 team, the win was incredibly hard-fought.
“I’m so lucky to get to do this and I don’t know, it’s just one of those weekends – lot of pressure,” said Truex. “We qualified horribly and I was mad about it. Cole (crew chief) was mad about it and twenty minutes we’re like alright, I think this is where we went wrong. And he’s like yeah, that’s where we went wrong. We screwed up, we’ll get them Sunday. Just thankful to him and this whole team and Barney (owner) and everybody for giving us everything we need.”
Chase Elliott jumped to the runner-up spot on the late overtime restart, earning his second runner-up finish in a row. Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Larson rounded out the rest of the top-10 finishers from Sunday.
Kyle Busch, who led early on in the race, struggled towards the end of the event with heat and carbon monoxide issues. Busch collapsed on the infield grass after the conclusion of Sunday’s race, but was later treated and released from the infield care center .