Martin Truex Jr. hoisted his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy on Sunday evening by winning the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Toyota driver for Furniture Row Racing led 78 of the 267 laps in beating fellow championship contender Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, championship hopeful Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, championship hopeful Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, pole-starter Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman. It was Truex’s eighth victory this year, coming after Las Vegas, Kansas City, Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicago, Charlotte, and again at Kansas City.
Sunday marked the fourth consecutive year the Ford EcoBoost 400 winner has also been the Cup Series championship under NASCAR’s “winner take all” format. Kevin Harvick did it in 2014, Kyle Busch in 2015 and Jimmie Johnson last year.
Busch will be listed second in final points, followed by Harvick and Brad Keselowski in third and fourth. The rest of the top 10: Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Johnson. Newly crowned Rookie of the Year Erik Jones finished 21st in the race and 19th in final points.
The 267-lap, 400-mile race was slowed five times for 26 laps. Four drivers swapped the lead 13 times, with Larson leading the most, four times, for 145 laps.
Truex led four times for 78 (including the final 51), Busch led four times for 43 and Keselowski led for one lap. Because of that dominance and so few cautions, only 12 of the 39 starters finished on the lead lap. Thirty-two drivers were running at the finish, 17 of them at least two laps down. Truex took the final lead when Busch made what he hoped would be his last pit stop at lap 216. After that stop, Busch held the advantage, having fresher tires and enough fuel to reach the end without a late stop. But a late caution at lap 229 — ironically, for a Kurt Busch incident — gave everyone to opportunity to pit and took away Kyle Busch’s advantage.
Once Truex took the lead in the pits, he was in his way.
“We just never gave up all day long,” the New Jersey native said, almost tearfully. “We didn’t have the best car and I don’t know how we won that thing. Never give up. Dig deep. I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have, and with 20 to go I thought I was done — they were all better than me on the long runs. I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen. I can’t believe it. I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid; just never give up. Just never give up on your dreams no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through.”
The season finale on the picture-perfect south Florida afternoon marked the final Cup race of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s and Matt Kenseth’s 20-year Cup careers, 18 of them full schedule. Earnhardt lost a lap in the first stage, another in the second and finished 25th; Kenseth ran top-10 most of the day and finished eighth.
Early in the weekend, when asked what he hoped to accomplish in his final race, Earnhardt cut to the chase: “I just want to run all the laps (and) I want to finish the race in one piece,” he said. “I’d like to finish the race in one piece, whatever that is. Obviously, you want to do as well as you can. But no matter where we finish, (I’d just like) to be able to pull down pit road, stop the car, and get out. And then, see my guys and do all that.”
Sunday also was the last race of Danica Patrick’s full-schedule stock car career, leaving only next year’s Daytona 500 and Indy 500 (both starts likely for owner Chip Ganassi) to end her career. She was several laps down in the second stage when she cut a tire, slammed the turn one wall and was rammed by Kasey Kahne. Despite the 37th-place finish, she retained her sense of humor.
“What I’m not looking forward to having to go sit in my bus and wait for everyone to get done before I can go home,” she said with a laugh. “That sucks, but I think what’s coming ahead is bright for me and for the way it feels. I’m excited.”
And there was considerable speculation Sunday that the Ford 400 was the last time Richard Petty Motorsports would field a Ford. It’s expected that RPM and Richard Childress Racing will field Chevrolets in a technical alliance next year. RCR will continue to field Chevy Camaros for Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon, and RPM will field Camaros for incoming Rookie of the Year candidate Bubba Wallace.
The race win was the 15th of Truex’s career.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Ford EcoBoost 400
Sunday, November 19, 2017
1. (2) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
2. (3) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 267.
3. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.
4. (9) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 267.
5. (18) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267.
6. (19) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
7. (5) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 267.
8. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267.
9. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.
10. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267.
11. (17) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
12. (16) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.
13. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 266.
14. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 266.
15. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 266.
16. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 265.
17. (30) David Ragan, Ford, 265.
18. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 265.
19. (12) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 265.
20. (29) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 265.
21. (14) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 265.
22. (8) Kurt Busch, Ford, 265.
23. (28) Landon Cassill, Ford, 265.
24. (23) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 265.
25. (24) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 264.
26. (32) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 264.
27. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 264.
28. (33) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 264.
29. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 264.
30. (31) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 263.
31. (34) Corey LaJoie(i), Toyota, 261.
32. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 259.
33. (27) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 234.
34. (10) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, Brakes, 225.
35. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Engine, 212.
36. (38) * David Starr(i), Chevrolet, Brakes, 175.
37. (25) Danica Patrick, Ford, Accident, 139.
38. (39) * Ray Black II(i), Chevrolet, Too Slow, 49.
39. (35) * Joey Gase(i), Toyota, Accident, 4.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 131.9 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 02 Mins, 11 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.681 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 26 laps.
Lead Changes: 13 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: 0; M. Truex Jr. (P) 1-12; K. Larson 13-82; B. Keselowski (P) 83; K. Larson 84-121; K. Busch (P) 122-123; K. Larson 124-145; K. Busch (P) 146; K. Larson 147-161; M. Truex Jr. (P) 162-175; K. Busch (P) 176; M. Truex Jr. (P) 177; K. Busch (P) 178-216; M. Truex Jr. (P) 217-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Larson 4 times for 145 laps; M. Truex Jr. (P) 4 times for 78 laps; K. Busch (P) 4 times for 43 laps; B. Keselowski (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 42,2,18,4,78,24,41,11,22,14
Stage #2 Top Ten: 42,78,4,18,2,41,20,22,24,11
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Ford EcoBoost 400