Despite suffering a flat right-front tire with two laps to go at Darlington, taking him out of contention for his second straight Southern 500 win, Martin Truex, Jr. will leave the track “Too Tough to Tame” with the consolation prize of the regular season points championship, giving him an all-important 15-point bonus for the playoffs.
“It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car,” said Truex. “I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night. I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on. It’s unfortunate we blew the tire, but really proud of everybody on this team for an amazing season so far, and to lock up the regular season points is a huge accomplishment for us, for our team. I feel like we’ve come a long way in just a few years together and continue to climb.”
“Proud of everybody. Wish we could have won, but that’s the breaks. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t, and tonight we come up a little short. But definitely a lot to be proud of.”
Throughout the 2017 season, Truex and his No. 78 Furniture Row team have been masters of racking up race wins, stage wins, and holding a hefty margin over their competitors in the points standings. Truex fell short of sewing up the regular season title two weeks ago at Bristol, but at Darlington, the team was stout from start to finish.
Starting the day on the outside of the front row, Truex soared into the lead just two laps from the end of the first stage to give himself yet another stage win on the year. The second stage would be more of the same as Truex gave up the lead under the stage break, but would be back up front two different times, including the final 22 laps of the second stage to win that stage as well.
As the final stage played out, Truex would cycle into the lead two more times, taking over the top spot for the final time from Kurt Busch on lap 326 and setting sail en route to trying to capture back to back Darlington wins.
With the coarse pavement that makes up the Darlington surface wreaking havoc on tires, Truex was pushing the limit of his tires as he tried to make it to the end while also trying to hold off a hard charging Denny Hamlin behind him. As the two drivers continued to battle with two laps remaining in the race, the Goodyear tires on Truex’s car gave up heading into Turn 3, sending him into the wall and ending his hopes of a win.
Truex would fall to eighth place by the time the checkered flag flew and leaving Darlington, Truex holds a 107-point margin over second place Kyle Busch as they head to the regular season finale at Richmond next Saturday night.
“It feels great,” Truex added. “Definitely can go to Richmond without any pressure, which is awesome. The other cool part is I clinched my first NASCAR championship here back in ’04 in the Busch Series back then. To do it here again tonight was really cool. It was just kind of a neat connection. Darlington has been good to me. I love coming here, and for that reason I guess it’s a little bit extra special to do it here tonight.”