By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry team outpaced the field for the Coca-Cola 600 pole on Thursday night and easily led the most laps in the race itself. This was Truex’s ninth career pole, and first pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Truex opened up an early lead until the competition caution on lap 25. After the restart, Truex held off the competition, to once again open up a gap that extended to nearly six seconds. During a round of green flag pit stops on lap 77, Jimmie Johnson led two laps before handing the lead back to Truex.
Truex went on to lead the race through the next round of green flag pit stops on lap 164, where Johnson and Joey Logano each led one lap during the exchange. Truex continued to lead after the pit stops. For 132 consecutive laps, Truex led the field, keeping Johnson, Logano, Carl Edwards, and Kevin Harvick at bay.
At the 300 lap mark, Paul Menard took the lead briefly during another round of green flag pit stops. Menard pitted two laps later, handing the lead back to Truex. Truex held onto the lead until the final caution, nearly 50 laps later. Truex held off Johnson and Harvick on pit road to keep the lead.
On the restart, Johnson battled hard, briefly taking the lead from Truex. Truex was persistent, and took the lead back from two laps later. Truex never relinquished the lead again.
Truex set several records. He broke a record for leading the most laps, 392 laps, in the history of the Coca-Cola 600. This was also the fastest race in Charlotte Motor Speedway history. Truex also reset the record for leading the most miles, 588, in a single NASCAR race as well. Both of these records were previously held by Jim Paschal who lead 335 laps, 502.5 miles in the 1967 World 600.
Truex also scored a perfect driver rating of 150. The last time that feat was accomplished was in March of 2015 at Phoenix International Raceway by Harvick.
Truex said after the race about how it feels to win the Coca-Cola 600, “It’s hard to put it into words. To be able to put it victory lane is amazing. It feels like a fairytale weekend. Cole and the guys did a great job with the car all weekend. Fast cars are fun to drive.”
When asked whether winning after coming up short makes up for the close calls, and whether it was bigger than winning at Pocono Raceway last year, Truex said, “Yeah I think it does. To win a race, the Coke 600 is one of the ones everyone wants to win. We were close at the Daytona 500, and to be sitting here, these are races that defines drivers’ careers. This a home game for almost everyone, and to come from Denver, Colorado, and take the trophy out of here, this is a really big deal.”
When Truex was asked about breaking records, he told the media, “I don’t know what to say. It’s insane to think about. There are so many greats in the sport. To have my name in the record books with them, it’s insane. It’s a neat thing to be able to do that. I think without green flag pit stops, we would’ve led more.”
Truex’s crew chief, Cole Pearn told the media, “It went good once the weekend started rolling. We made good gains the whole time through. We were 13th in the first round of qualifying, I think fifth in the second. To get it done in the Coke 600 is pretty good.”
Image: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images