This Team Rocks

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photo credit: Ron Olds

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (May 13, 2017) — “Finally,” shouted Martin Truex Jr on his radio after taking the checkered flag to capture the Go Bowling 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.

It was no doubt a redemption win for Truex who led a race high of 104 laps in his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota. But leading the most laps at the spring race in Kansas has never been a problem for the Furniture Row Racing driver.

In three previous spring races at Kansas Truex also led the most laps on the 1.5-mile oval. What was different Saturday night in the Sunflower State was that he led the most important lap and that being the final one.

The closing laps tested Truex’s resolve. He appeared to have the race under control, but with 24 laps remaining the first of three late cautions were called.

It all came down to the restarts, and that’s when Truex was at his best, especially on the final restart with two laps remaining. He took the inside lane, and pulled off a delicate restart with precision. He never looked back as he sped home to victory for the first time in Kansas. His margin of victory over runner-up Brad Keselowksi was 1.1 seconds.

“When the pressure was on, when the money was on the line, we made the right moves, and everything worked out,” said Truex. “I knew if I didn’t come out of those restarts with the lead, I probably wasn’t going to win.

“Our Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota was really fast, but if we didn’t get the lead on the restarts, it probably took us at least 20 laps to get good enough to pass those guys for the lead. The leader had a huge advantage tonight, so to get the lead on those restarts was big, and I knew that was going to be the race, and luckily we were able to make it happen. It was great to give Auto-Owners a victory in its first race as a primary sponsor this season. We also won last year’s Southern 500 (Darlington) with the blue Auto-Owners Toyota.”

When asked how he felt to win in Kansas after so many close calls Truex said, “It’s definitely been a thorn in our side – that’s for sure. You know for years and years even before I was with this team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal. Proud to get these guys back in victory lane. This is our home race track — the guys from Colorado. Appreciate all the fans. We got a lot of fans from Colorado here today. I met a bunch of them before the race and hopefully they’re all psyched.”

The victory was the second of the season for Truex and the ninth of his career. Seven of his Cup victories have been with the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team.

“Awesome day. Awesome weekend,” said an overjoyed Truex. “This team rocks, man, they’re so good. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and the entire team here at the track and back at our shop in Denver. We just stuck with it all night. We had an awesome race car. There were times when we looked like we weren’t going to have a shot at it. We just kept fighting and made it happen.”

But with all the jubilation of the victory, Truex was also reflective about the race accident that injured Aric Almirola.
Crash Video: compression fracture

“Yeah, that’s the worst, you never want to see it,” said Truex. “Aric is a friend of mine. He volunteered to be in our fashion show next week, Catwalk for a Cause, our big foundation fundraiser. He and his wife, great people, family guy, and just such a nice family and such a nice guy. I was really scared when I saw that and worried for him, obviously. I hope it was just a safety precaution to get him out on a stretcher. I hope he’s doing well. Definitely thinking about Aric and his family.”

Truex qualified third and ran in the top three for the majority of the 267-lap race and led six different times, including the final 19 laps.

He remains second in driver points but leads the series with 15 playoff bonus points. He also picked up an additional 17 standing points for finishing second in the first stage and third in the second. (DMF/FRR/pr 5.14.17)

photo credit: Ron Olds (file)

The 22nd-place finish Erik Jones and the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY team earned in Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway will be filed under the category of learning experience.

The 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry lined up 32nd, on the outside of Row 16, for the first night race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season. Jones and his Furniture Row Racing team, along with 10 other teams, were not able to make a qualifying run Friday afternoon after not completing the technical inspection process. Despite the poor starting position, Jones had moved into the top 20 before halfway of the 80-lap first stage and finished in 12th.

Stage 2 opened with Jones moving into the top 10 in the first 10 laps but then spun on Lap 95 while running ninth. He restarted in 26th and worked his way back into the top 15 by Lap 132. The handling of the No. 77 Toyota Camry was very tight so adjustments were made under caution and Jones finished the stage in ninth place, picking up two valuable championship points in the process.

Continued adjustments were made on the car for the final stage which seemed to help the handling but slowed the overall performance. Jones was running 14th on Lap 199 when a red flag for a three-car incident stopped the competition for nearly 30 minutes. When racing resumed, the No. 77 Camry moved into ninth place by Lap 206 but then the handling fell off again.

Jones spun on lap 217 and then contact with the No. 13 on Lap 258 caused yet another spin. He regrouped yet again but, with just six laps remaining in the 267-lap event, had to settle for a 22nd-place finish.

“It was a tough night for the 5-hour ENERGY team all the way around,” said Jones. “It’s just one of those races you have to put behind you and look toward next week to make it better.”

Jones is tied with Daniel Suarez for 19th place in the NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings. He is 16 points behind Matt Kenseth for 18th and 29 behind Kurt Busch for 15th. (D.H/FRR/pr 5.14.17)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Number 11
Unofficial Race Results for the 7Th Annual Go Bowling 400 – Saturday, May 13, 2017
Kansas Speedway – Kansas City, KS – 1.5 Mile Paved
Total Race Length – 267 Laps – 400.5 Miles

1 – 78 Martin Truex Jr.
2 – 2 Brad Keselowski
3 – 4 Kevin Harvick
4 – 21 Ryan Blaney
5 – 18 Kyle Busch
6 – 42 Kyle Larson
7 – 19 Daniel Suarez
8 – 1 Jamie McMurray
9 – 14 Clint Bowyer
10 – 6 Trevor Bayne
11 – 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
12 – 20 Matt Kenseth
13 – 95 Michael McDowell
14 – 13 Ty Dillon
15 – 5 Kasey Kahne
16 – 3 Austin Dillon
17 – 38 David Ragan
18 – 37 Chris Buescher
19 – 41 Kurt Busch
20 – 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
21 – 34 Landon Cassill
22 – 77 Erik Jones
23 – 11 Denny Hamlin
24 – 48 Jimmie Johnson
25 – 15 Reed Sorenson
26 – 72 Cole Whitt
27 – 83 Corey LaJoie
28 – 51 Timmy Hill
29 – 24 Chase Elliott
30 – 47 AJ Allmendinger
31 – 66 Carl Long
32 – 32 Matt DiBenedetto
33 – 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt
34 – 23 Gray Gaulding
35 – 27 Paul Menard
36 – 10 Danica Patrick
37 – 22 Joey Logano
38 – 43 Aric Almirola
39 – 55 Derrike Cope
40 – 31 Ryan Newman

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