By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Furniture Row Racing may be closing the doors at season’s end, but their focus is still laser sharp on pulling off the ultimate mic drop moment by claiming their second straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship on their way out.
After accumulating enough points to make it through Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway and claim one of the berths into the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend, the dream is still alive and well.
“It gives me chills,” said Martin Truex, Jr. “Honestly, I’m really happy for him (team owner Barney Visser). We had a good conversation this morning before the race and I told him I’m glad he’s here and going to Homestead. He’s done so much for all of us, all of our careers, so many people in Denver that moved out there 12 years ago to come to work.
“It’s been an unbelievable place to work. He’s been a great boss, a great friend to all of us, and we’re going to do all we can to get him to go out on top.”
Truex and the No. 78 team came into Phoenix just needing to stay out of trouble with a 25-point advantage over the cut-off and that’s exactly what they were able to accomplish.
After starting 13th, Truex made his presence known near the end of the second stage, taking the lead for the first time at lap 137 before finishing the stage in third place, with him only having to finish in the mid-20’s to be able to transfer through to Homestead.
Running in the top-10 for the majority of the remaining laps, Truex avoided disaster when Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin crashed in front of him on lap 270 and played it safe as the checkered flag grew nearer, making a pit stop on the final caution to keep himself out of the chaos at the front of the field, eventually finishing 14th on the day.
“It was a tough one,” Truex added. “We didn’t have the greatest car, but we battled hard and we had a little bit of good fortune. Made good calls, good strategy and good adjustments on the car. We got it to where it was pretty decent. The short runs just really killed us today. It would take 40 or 50 laps for the car to come in and then a caution would come out. All in all, I’m just really proud of everybody, everybody back in Denver at the shop for continuing to bring good race cars and stay focused.
“it’s an unbelievable group. One last hoorah next week and we’ll go give them all we’ve got.”
With Sunday’s race complete, Truex has four wins, 19 top-five finishes, 20 top-10 finishes, four poles, and 996 laps led this season as he heads to Homestead with a second championship in mind.
“Homestead is a tough track, it’s a long race and anything can happen,” Truex said of his outlook on the championship race. “We saw last year that we were really good on short runs and the 18 (Kyle Busch) was good on long runs and at the end it came down to a short run and we were able to hold him off. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, you have to have a good race car and you have to have things play out the way you need them to suit your setup and suit what you’re doing.
“For us, we’ve got a lot of confidence and we really don’t have a lot of pressure on us. We’re going to go down there and all you can do is give it your best. We haven’t been the fastest car this year by any means, but when we hit it right we can beat anybody. If we can go down there and hit it right, we’re going to have some fun.”