Dominant. That’s the only way to describe Martin Truex Jr.’s record-breaking victory in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600.
The Furniture Row Racing driver led 392 of the 400 laps for 588 miles. That’s 98 percent of the race. The 392 laps led is a Coke 600 event record and the 588 miles led is the most in a single race in NASCAR history. Not a bad way to pick up Furniture Row Racing’s first win of the 2016 NASCARP Sprint Cup season.
After only 13 of 36 races completed, Truex already has set a career high for laps led in a season at 809, surpassing his previous mark of 581 set in 2007. But Truex wasn’t just dominant at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He’s been waiting to break through for some time now. In the last three races, he has led a total of 611 laps.
“Yeah, it’s just awesome, really amazing weekend, the kind you dream about,” said an Truex after scoring his fourth career victory and second with Furniture Row Racing. “I mean, it’s incredible to think — to see what we’ve done. That’s what every driver wants. We all want to go to the track each and every weekend and know we have a chance of winning, running up front and leading laps. Hopefully we can keep it up. It’s early in the season and there’s a long ways to go. We’re going to keep pushing hard and keep trying to work towards that championship goal.”
The victory virtually punched Truex’s ticket into the 10-race Chase playoffs, which commences at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 18. Truex now has 381 points in the Chase and sits in seventh place, up two slots thanks to the win.
When the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota took the checkered flag, 2.572 seconds ahead of runner-up Kevin Harvick, the 35-year-old Truex needed time to reflect on what he just accomplished.
“There are so many emotions,” said Truex. “I had to unplug my radio and just ride around and think for a few minutes, because I didn’t even know what I was going to say or what I was going to do. We’ve been through a lot as a group. I’ve been through a lot personally. I’ve been through a lot with Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) and it’s fun to have her here and have her celebrate.
“I am happy for my guys, crew chief Cole Pearn, happy for Barney [Visser, team owner], Toyota, Johnny Morris [Bass Pro Shops owner and founder], everybody at the shop back in Denver. I mean, I’ve got the best team in the world.”
Truex’s Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota carried a name of a fallen hero as part of NASCAR’s 600 Miles of Remembrance for the Memorial Day Weekend race. The fallen hero on Truex’s car was U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey E. Bohr, who was killed in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“So proud to have Jeffrey Bohr ride with us this weekend,” said Truex. “He is the real hero, he gave his life for our country so we can enjoy our freedom and do what we did tonight.”
Truex, who came close to victories this season at Daytona, Texas, Kansas and Dover, was not going to be denied again. He won the pole on Thursday evening and came back on Saturday to post the fastest speed in the final practice session.
“I have confidence in my team,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of great people behind me. Sherry – she gives me a lot of inspiration and we just keep fighting. We never give up. We never quit. We always just keep digging and just proud of my guys for sticking behind me – the pit crew has come a long way. They did a great job tonight. Sprint, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners Insurance, our (technical) alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and to all our fans, who have supported us through the heartbreaks. Thanks to all of you.”
Third-place finisher and six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said post-race of Truex’s dominating performance, “Yeah, I mean they have had a few runs where they have just been the class of the field and things have kept them from Victory Lane. Tonight he wasn’t going to be denied — there was no way around that.”
The next race is Sunday June 5 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway where Truex is the defending champion.