When it comes to a fuel mileage race the strategy has to be perfect and the driver has to be perfect. Furniture Row Racing had both Sunday as Martin Truex Jr. won the NASCAR Cup Series road course race at Watkins Glen International.
It was a series’ leading fourth victory of the season for Truex and his 11th career win as a Cup driver. Nine of his wins have come with Furniture Row Racing. And how good has Truex been at the historic Watkins Glen track? In 12 career starts he has one win, four top fives, seven top 10s and has completed 100 percent of the laps – 1,082 of 1,082. He also set a personal career mark of notching nine top fives in a season.
It was the 10th career win for the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing and it was also another double top 10 for the team with rookie Erik Jones finishing 10th in his No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota.
Truex’s No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota Camry led a race high of 24 laps, but gave up the lead late in the race to save fuel. The strategy paid off as Truex retook the lead with three laps remaining on the 2.45-mile road circuit.
“I hated to have those cars pass me but you just have to listen to your crew chief and luckily for me I have the best one in the business (Cole Pearn),” said Truex, who qualified third for the 90-lap race earlier in the day. “I believe in Cole so much and I just do what he says. I have to thank Cole. It’s been a tough week for him and I am thinking about his buddy’s parents and family.”
Truex added, “I just kept listening to Cole. He said, ‘We need to slow down more. We need to slow down more.’ It’s the hardest thing in the world to slow down and let those guys pass you for the lead thinking that when you figure out that you have enough fuel to make it you can try to step up your pace again and they’re just going to do the same. You never know what strategy everybody is on. You don’t know how much gas they have or are saving. It’s so tough. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do just to slow down that much and watch those guys drive away. But, Cole Pearn man, that’s his job and I trust him and everything he says. He tells me what to do and I just do it and I don’t ask questions and here we are.”
For Pearn, it’s been an emotional week. He lost his best friend.
“Yeah, it's been probably the hardest week of my life,” said Pearn. “But I don't know, it's still ‑‑ it's not over yet. I lost my best friend growing up this week. He caught a random bacterial infection from a cut and basically died in a day. It's not like he was sick. I talked to him the day before. They were coming to Michigan next weekend. So just doesn't seem real still. He's got two little boys who are not going to know their dad pretty much. I don't know, we'll get through it as a group. We were lucky to have an unbelievable friend support and family around that will make sure everybody is all right. But he was a heart‑of‑gold guy that ‑‑ I don't know, I still haven't come to terms with it, to be honest.”
When asked about Truex’s performance, Pearn was quick to praise his driver.
“It was one of the best for sure,” said Pearn about Truex’s ability to save fuel and stay focused. “The 18 (Kyle Busch) was really good early, but we knew we were the next best car. I think we got our car better after the first pit stop. But for Martin to have the discipline to do that (save fuel) and then at the same time you’re at a road course. You know, just saving fuel on an oval is one thing but trying to save fuel at a road course is a whole different animal because it’s all about braking hard and accelerating here. It’s a unique challenge, and for him to be able to do that and stay disciplined is a huge accomplishment.”
Truex, who finished second in the first two stages, has now increased his standing lead to a 116-point margin over second place Kyle Busch. Truex also leads in playoff bonus points with 34. There are four regular season races remaining before the start of the 10-race playoffs.