Martin Truex Jr. overcame two penalties to finish second in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Furniture Row Racing driver crossed the finish line 3.823 seconds behind race winner Kyle Busch.
It was the second straight runner-up finish for Truex and his eighth top five in the first 13 races of the season. The second-place performance plus stage finishes of fourth, second and eighth lifted Truex from eighth to fifth in the driver point standings. There was an additional stage for this race.
Truex once again showed his muscle in the Coke 600, one of the crown jewels in the NASCAR Cup Series. In the last four Coke 600s, Truex has had finishes of fifth, first, third and second for a 2.75 average.
After finishing second in the first stage Truex was called for a pit-road speeding penalty which sent him back to 19th place in track position. On the ensuing pit stop while running 14th the Furniture Row Racing team was called for an uncontrollable tire, relegating Truex to 24th.
But the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, which carried the name of Vietnam casualty 1st Lt. Arlen Del Richardson, tenaciously battled back by posting the majority of the fastest laps late in the race.
“It was a battle-back night for us,” Truex said. “It was a good effort to get the Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Camry to second after the speeding and pit road tire penalties. We had the second-best car all night and I don’t think anybody had anything for the 18 (Kyle Busch). We gained a little on him on that last run under green but, like I said, I think he was taking care of his car a little bit. Props to Kyle and props to this Furniture Row Racing team as well, for sticking with it all night.”
The longest race of the year (400 laps, 600 miles) was indeed a test of stamina.
“It was hot, that was the biggest thing,” Truex said. “Six hundred miles. It’s hot and it’s humid. These cars are so hot inside it’s crazy. You definitely have to be prepared. Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) made me a special smoothie this morning that she said would give me strength and stay hydrated and I definitely think it did. I think I drank six gallons of water the last three days but that’s just what you have to do but I feel pretty good.”
Truex added, “It’s been a great week for sure. The White House visit (on Monday) was amazing and it’s been a good couple of weeks here in Charlotte. Aside from the crash in the All-Star race, we performed well, we had a great charity event (Catwalk for a Cause) and went to the White House. We’ve been busy but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Following Kyle Busch and Truex to the checkered flag were: Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The race had 11 cautions for 54 laps and there were nine lead changes among four drivers.
The next race is Sunday June 3 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.