NASCAR Pocono Notebook: Martin Truex Jr. Likes His Championship Chances

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Seth Livingstone ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Martin Truex Jr. crosses the finish line to win Sunday's Sprint Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Martin Truex Jr. crosses the finish line to win Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images for NASCAR)

LONG POND, Pa. – Now that he’s all but locked into NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time, Martin Truex Jr. feels pretty good about his championship chances.

“Right now, I feel we’re as good as anyone out there,” said Truex. “Look what we’ve done the last four weeks.”

Actually, look what Truex has done all year, finishing with top-10 finishes in 13 of the season’s first 14 races. Prior to Sunday’s victory, Truex trailed only Kevin Harvick in the point standings, a deficit he sliced to 39 points with his win in the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400.

“We’ve gone head-to-head with the big guys – the 48 (six-time champion Jimmie Johnson) and the 4 (defending Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick). We’ve been right there with them, toe-to-toe.

“I think we’re still growing. We’re still getting better. I’m just excited to be part of it to see what we can do. I know we’re going to work as hard or harder than anybody out there. It’s pretty cool to see what a single-car team from Denver is doing and it’s awesome to be a part of that.”

Streaks Come And Go

Kevin Harvick’s propensity to finish in second place continued Sunday. Harvick, who has won two Sprint Cup races, has also finished second in eight of the season’s first 14 events.

“I think everybody is probably frustrated that we didn’t win, but I think it’s ‘frustrated’ in a good way,” Harvick said. “It’s very rare that you can come to the race track and be in those positions every week. You want to be frustrated because we’re not winning, but in the end, you don’t want to be greedy, either … Second is better than 10th.”

Although Truex’s victory was the sixth consecutive triumph for a Chevrolet in a Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway, it was the first of the six not won by a Hendricks Motorsports driver.

Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson was no match for Truex or Harvick on Sunday, but rebounded from a cut tire to finish third. “To be leading that next group of cars with our right side knocked off and our splitter missing up front, it was a good result,” Johnson said. “Third is not the end of the world.”

Despite contending for much of the afternoon, Hendrick’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th and Kasey Kahne 13th – one spot ahead of Jeff Gordon.

Logano Is Making The Best Of It

Joey Logano turned what looked like a complete salvage operation into a moderately successful afternoon for Penske Racing at Pocono Raceway.

Forced to start at the rear of the field after a rear end change, Logano battled to a fourth-place finish on a weekend in which his Ford counterparts struggled mightily. Greg Biffle had the next-best finishing Ford, coming home 12th.

Logano didn’t make things any easier on himself when he drew a penalty for being too fast on pit road, 20 laps into the race, briefly putting him a lap down.

“I’m happy with the way it ended,” Logano said. “We didn’t have a very fast car from the get-go, but we kept fighting hard. This was one of those blue-collar days, just working hard all day on the car and on pit road.

Matt Kenseth, winless in 32 career starts at Pocono, finished sixth in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – his best finish at the 2.5-mile triangle since 2006.

“It was the fastest sixth-place car that I’ve ever had,” said Kenseth, who started 19th. “This is a bad track for me and we had a great car today.”

Bumps In The Road

The bumpy Tunnel Turn at Pocono, which drew the attention and criticism of multiple drivers on Friday, turned out to be little factor in Sunday’s race. If anything, it created additional opportunities to pass.

“I think after the first run, everybody was kind of settled down on the bumps,” Harvick said. “I probably made 70 percent of my passes today in the tunnel because guys would get there and bounce and move up the track.”

“I totally agree,” Johnson said. “It was an opportunity to pass. It’s a hairy corner to start with. Then to roll off in there your first time and find those bumps – I just think it got everybody’s attention. But I don’t mind the bumps and the challenges that come with that stuff.”

France Discusses Rules

Addressing possible rules changes and suggestions to improve racing as expressed by the newly-formed Driver’s Council, NASCAR chairman & CEO Brian France told the Fox Sports 1 panel on NASCAR Raceday that drivers can’t quite agree on what tweaks might make for better racing.

“They can’t agree because they’re competing with one another,” France said, “so what feels good to one driver in terms of the style of racing doesn’t feel as good to another. More downforce, less downforce, more grip, less grip — all those things they may agree (on) while they’re sort of talking quietly. But once they get with us, it’s ‘Whoa, don’t do that. Do this. Do that.’

“Our job is to make the sport better and have closer, tighter racing, (ensuring that) teams that don’t have the budget or aren’t of the size of some of the bigger teams a better shot to win and compete. … Whatever decision we make, we can’t get enough good information.”

Leave a Reply

Copyright 2018 E-Media Sports

Website Designed by Thirty Marketing