Martin Truex Jr. NASCAR Cup Series Champion
When it comes to the NASCAR Playoffs, all bets are off. Rarely do we see the most dominant car all season win the Cup nowadays. That wasn’t the case Sunday. Even with a stacked Championship 4 rounded out with Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski, it was Martin Truex Jr. who came out on top. Truex Jr. took NASCAR’s top crown by winning the Championship Race at Homestead for his series-leading eighth victory of the season. The title serves as his first in NASCAR’s premier series, one well deserved.
Ever since Truex Jr. first broke into the higher ranks of NASCAR, the Mayetta, New Jersey native has seen his fair shares of ups and downs. In 2001, he began racing in the Busch (Xfinity) Series in a family-owned car. Two years later, he landed a ride with Chance 2 Motorsports owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior gave Truex a full-time gig in the Busch Series in 2004. That season, Truex Jr. won the Busch Series title and also made his first career Nextel (Monster Energy) Cup Series race, coincidentally, the Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta. After deciding to hang around to defend his title in 2005, Truex Jr. did just that and dominated all season long. He also qualified for a few Cup races that season and even recorded a seventh-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600.
In 2006, Truex made the full-time jump to the Cup Series taking over the Dale Earnhardt Incorporated #1 Chevrolet. The lofty expectations that came with back to back Busch Series titles followed as well. Truex found moderate success at DEI, later Earnhardt Ganassi, but only made it to victory lane once in four seasons (Dover, Spring 2007). After the 2009 season, former teammate Michael Waltrip signed Truex Jr. to his newly formed team.
The move to Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota put Truex in a better position to contend for race wins and a chance to make The Chase. Each season at MWR, Truex’s #56 team got better including a win a Sonoma in 2013. Then everything came to an abrupt end at Richmond: the infamous MWR-collusion race. All of a sudden, Truex Jr. went from being in the Chase to mired in scandal. Some thought he’d never recover.
Furniture Row Racing
After the embarrassment that followed Truex after the Richmond incident, Truex moved over to Furniture Row Racing in 2014. The team found mixed success early, but in 2015 hit their stride. In 14 out of the first 15 races of 2015, Truex finished in the top 10. That season he went on to make the Championship Race but wound up finishing 12th in the race and fourth in the standings. The next season, Truex started turning those top 10s into victories by winning four races, but poor runs at Talladega and Phoenix ended the team’s title hopes.
Heading into 2017, the #78 Furniture Row team knew they were a championship caliber team and proved it. The Bass Pro Shops Toyota tallied victories at Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky, and Watkins Glenn to clear the way to a regular-season trophy. Once the playoffs started, Truex only finished outside the top 5 once. He won at Chicago to secure a spot in the second round. Then he won at Charlotte to secure a spot in the third round. In the third round, Truex rattled off finishes of 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd to transfer into the Championship race via points.
At Homestead, everything came to fruition for Truex. He ran around the front all afternoon, and when the championship opportunity arrived, he pounced. In the finale, Truex led 75 laps and held off fellow championship contender Kyle Busch for the victory.