Truex con­tin­ues play­off dom­i­nance

With ail­ing part­ner in mind, driver earns sec­ond vic­tory of post­sea­son, eyes ti­tle

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD -

CON­CORD, N.C. — Stand­ing next to his car in vic­tory lane, in this sea­son he never thought pos­si­ble, Martin Truex Jr. strug­gled with his emo­tions.

He raced to his ca­reer-best sixth vic­tory Sun­day in the Bank of Amer­ica 500 at Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way, and this win is worth an au­to­matic slot in the next round of NASCAR’s play­offs. He’s clearly the driver to beat in this cham­pi­onship race, and the real­ity of how close it re­ally is seemed some­what sur­real.

Then he thought about his part­ner, Sherry Pollex, who has ovar­ian can­cer and chemo­ther­apy sched­uled for Mon­day. She couldn’t come to the race, partly be­cause her weak­ened im­mune sys­tem makes crowds too risky for her.

He choked on his words, his voice heavy as he tried not to cry.

“I couldn’t hold it in any­more,” he said. “Sherry, I was think­ing about her be­cause she’s not here, and I know she re­ally wanted to be. I thought about win­ning this first race of the round, the pres­sure com­ing off. Just a lot of things, I guess. I was wore out. I just lost it for a minute.

“There’s a lot go­ing on. It just shows how much this stuff means to us. We put ev­ery­thing into this, ev­ery­thing we have.”

Truex gave Toy­ota yet an­other vic­tory in NASCAR’s play­offs — the man­u­fac­turer is 4-for-4 so far — on a hu­mid day at Char­lotte. Truex has two wins in the play­offs and this one was the first time in this for­mat that Toy­ota has won a race in this round of post­sea­son.

“Just a to­tal team ef­fort,” Truex said. “Ev­ery sin­gle guy, ev­ery guy on this team just did a per­fect job to­day and I can’t be more proud of them and at this time of the year is just when you want it to hap­pen. You dream about days like to­day. I don’t know if we had the best car, but we damn sure got it in vic­tory lane.”

Kyle Busch, win­ner of the last two play­off races, wrecked early in the race yet com­pleted it in a dam­aged race car. Com­plain­ing most of the 500 miles of be­ing over­heated, he needed im­me­di­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion when he climbed from his car.

Busch laid in the grass, packs of ice were placed on his chest, and a stretcher was brought to him. Once he felt strong enough, he stood and walked to an Martin Truex Jr. cel­e­brates his ca­reer-best sixth vic­tory of the sea­son. His win gave Toy­ota its fourth vic­tory in four post­sea­son races. am­bu­lance. He re­ceived oxy­gen to treat a high car­bon monox­ide level.

“I felt like I was hav­ing a heat stroke,” Busch said.

The hu­mid­ity drained sev­eral driv­ers, in­clud­ing Truex, who had to catch his breath af­ter tak­ing the check­ered flag.

“See­ing him af­ter the race, how whipped he was, was kind of a shock,” crew chief Cole Pearn said.

Truex won in over­time af­ter two late cau­tions cre­ated ex­tra laps and forced Truex to hold off fel­low Toy­ota driver Denny Ham­lin on a pair of restarts.

Chase El­liott fin­ished sec­ond for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week and sixth time in his ca­reer. He nearly won for the first time in the Cup series a week ago, but Busch ran him down and passed him for the win with one lap to go.

Har­vick was third and Ham­lin fin­ished fourth. Like his team­mate Busch, Ham­lin was drained af­ter the race. His fire­suit was soaked with sweat stains and he needed to eat a ba­nana to re­cover.

“You usu­ally can tell hy­dra­tion level from my suit,” Ham­lin said. “Any time it has white streaks all over it, I’m spent pretty good. I feel pretty bad, no doubt about it.”

Jamie McMur­ray was fifth, Jim­mie John­son sev­enth and Ryan Blaney eighth.

Kyle Lar­son was 10th, Matt Kenseth 11th, Ricky Sten­house Jr. 13th, Brad Ke­selowski 15th and Busch 29th.

The bot­tom four in the stand­ings headed into Tal­ladega are Kenseth, Ke­selowski, Blaney and Sten­house. But, it could have been much worse for Sten­house, who was all over the board Sun­day un­til he solidly cracked the top-15 late in the race.

But, Sten­house was busted for speed­ing on a late pit stop and had to restart 20th. He had to scram­ble in the clos­ing laps to fin­ish 13th.

“We thought if we could be15th to 10th it would be a good day for us,” he said. “It would be nice to run top-10 all race here, but we strug­gled up and down.”

DAVID T. FOSTER III/TNS

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