Truex re­cov­ers from blown tire to win Chase opener

Baltimore Sun - - NFL - By Mike Cranston

JOLIET, ILL. — Martin Truex Jr. went from a com­pletely un­rav­eled tire that left him a lap down to the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship lead for the first time in his ca­reer.

He can thank a late cau­tion in what has been an emo­tional year for the small-team driver.

Truex shot to the front af­ter a late restart and pulled away to give Fur­ni­ture Row Rac­ing a NASCAR Sprint Cup play­off- openi ng vi ct ory Sun­day in the Teenage Mut ant Ninja Tur­tles 400 at Chicagoland Speed­way.

“I’ve had a lot of prac­tice at it,” Truex said of the on- track ob­sta­cles. “I think my ap­proach re­ally changed two years ago when Sherry [Pollex, his girl­friend] got di­ag­nosed with can­cer. My ap­proach to al l t hose t hings changed and made me a bet­ter driver.”

NASCAR an­nounced af­ter the race that Truex’s No. 78 Toy­ota failed the laser in­spec­tion, but the in­frac­tion was not se­ri­ous enough to negate the vic­tory for Chase qual­i­fica- tion pur­poses. Truex is ex­pected to re­ceive a point penalty this week.

Rookie Chase El­liott ap­peared on his way to an easy win un­til Michael McDow­ell blew a tire and spun out to bring a cau­tion with five laps left.

El­liott and Truex came in to pit for tires, while non- Chase driv­ers Ryan Blaney and Kasey Kahne and Chase con­tender Carl Ed­wards stayed on the track.

Truex restarted fourth and El­liott fifth, and Truex quickly got to t he front and held off Joey Logano on the fi­nal l ap f or his third vic­tory of the sea­son. Truex is guar­an­teed to move on when t he Chase field is cut from 16 to 12 in two weeks.

Truex, whose team gets tech­ni­cal sup­port from Joe Gibbs Rac­ing, made the last four in the 2015 Chase. His 2016 sea­son started with a near-miss at the Day­tona 500 and a Coca- Cola 600 win, while Pollex has bat­tled ovar­ian can­cer. She’s now in re­mis­sion.

“You have to un­der­stand, this isn’t the end of the world,” Truex said of rac­ing set­backs. “We can New Hamp­shire Mo­tor Speed­way, Loudon, N.H. Sun­day, 2 p.m. TV: NBC Sports Net­work over­come it. That’s what we did to­day.”

El­liott, a rookie, fin­ished third, fol­lowed by Blaney and Chase driver Brad Ke­selowski, who sits sec­ond in points.

“It’s not yours un­til it’s over,” the 20-year-old El­liott said. “That’s part of life, man. You’re not dumb. We’ve all watched this stuff long enough to know th­ese races don’t go green that long.”

Truex led early in the race, only to have his tire come com­pletely un­rav­eled. It led to an un­sched­uled stop that left him a lap down in the 400-mile race.

Free agent Dmitry Orlov, a long­time Cap­i­tals de­fense­man, will play for Rus­sia against North Amer­ica

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