Martin Truex Jr. ended the first round of the Chase playoffs the same way he started – with a victory. The Furniture Row Racing driver, backed by Toyota power, tamed the all-concrete Monster Mile by leading a race high 187 laps. He took the checkered flag with an impressive 7.527-second margin of victory.
Truex’s victory in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway was his fourth Sprint Cup Series win of the season, second in the last three races and third in the last five races. The four victories surpassed his career total of three entering the 2016 season.
“I can’t even believe it man — it’s just living a dream right now,” said an elated Truex. “It’s a fairytale. I don’t even know what to say. All the credit goes to these guys. Cole (Pearn, crew chief), the engineering staff, road crew, over-the-wall crew, everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) – the engine shop, fab shop, chassis shop, all the guys in Denver, our alliance with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Barney Visser (team owner) for giving us everything to be able to do this.”
The result was also Truex’s fifth straight top 10. His finishes in the last five races have been first (Darlington), third (Richmond), first (Chicago), seventh (New Hampshire) and first (Dover). The average finish during this stretch is 2.6.
“We’ve got it going right now and we’ve got confidence, we’ve got fast race cars and the guys are making good decisions,” explained Truex. “Heck, we only ran 10 laps of practice yesterday because we didn’t want to take a chance of getting off because we thought the track wasn’t right and it paid off for us today.”
Driving the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, Truex started the 400-lap race from the outside pole. He took the lead on Lap 6 and never fell out of the top three. He led six times during the race, including the final 27 laps.
“I think we’ve just got to go out there each week and try to be as prepared as we can,” said Truex. “We’re not going to change who we are. We didn’t do that before the Chase started. We just got hot and we got momentum, and hopefully we don’t lose it. I mean, I don’t know how we got it, I don’t know how to keep it, I just know that we’re going to continue to approach these races the same way, and hopefully it works out for us.”
The victory was even more special for Truex, a Mayetta, N.J. native, who calls Dover International Speedway his home track. Dover was also the site of his first Cup victory in 2007.
“I’ve got to pinch myself, it’s unbelievable,” stated Truex. “So many people to thank — Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, Visser Precision, Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Tracker Boats, Auto-Owners Insurance, Oakley, Sprint, the fans, everybody that makes this happen for us.”
The victory also marked the 15th win for Toyota in 2016 – the most wins in a single season since entering the series in 2007.
The Dover race had four cautions for 22 laps and there were 14 lead changes among six drivers.
Finishing positions 2-10 went to Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon.
The next round of the Chase starts Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 12 drivers advancing for the three-race playoff will all start with 3000 points. The top eight drivers in the next three races – Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega – advance to the third round.