Plan works per­fectly

Truex wins with fuel-mileage gam­ble

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — One by one they passed him as the laps dwin­dled at Watkins Glen In­ter­na­tional, and Martin Truex Jr. stuck to the plan. In the end, he was the one laugh­ing in vic­tory lane.

Truex held off a charg­ing Matt Kenseth on the fi­nal lap and won the NASCAR Cup race on Sun­day at The Glen, stretch­ing his fuel to the tri­umphant end. It was the sec­ond road course vic­tory of his ca­reer.

“I’ve wanted to win here for a long time. This is a big one for our team,” Truex said. “I never ran 100 per­cent be­cause I didn’t have to. I ran hard enough [on the last lap]

to just try to man­age that gap.”

Truex gained the lead when Penske Rac­ing’s Brad Ke­selowski in the No. 2 Ford and Ryan Blaney in the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers were forced to pit in the fi­nal three laps.

“It’s ex­cru­ci­at­ing to go that slow here and try to save that much fuel,” Truex said. “The tough­est part, re­ally, was just watch­ing the No. 2 pass and go on, and then watch­ing the No. 21 pass and go on. It’s like, ‘All right, if they don’t run out of gas, we’re go­ing to look re­ally dumb.’ For­tu­nately, it worked out for us.”

Trail­ing by 3 sec­onds after sav­ing fuel for sev­eral laps, Truex as­sumed the lead in his No. 78 Toy­ota when Blaney ducked into the pits as the white flag was about to fly. De­spite a bob­ble and lock­ing the brakes as Kenseth chal­lenged on the last lap, Truex won for the fourth time this sea­son.

“He was so fast, I still couldn’t get to him,” said Kenseth, who main­tained his slim points lead over Clint Bowyer for the fi­nal slot in the play­offs with four races to go be­fore the cut­off. “I was rac­ing as hard as I could, try- ing to make as many passes as I could.”

Daniel Suarez was third, the best fin­ish of his rookie sea­son, fol­lowed by Denny Ham­lin and Bowyer. Pole-sit­ter Kyle Busch was sev­enth.

Truex boosted his play- off points to­tal to 34, nearly dou­ble that of sec­ond-place Jim­mie John­son (18) as his best sea­son shows no signs of tail­ing off.

“I feel like with the way we run, cou­pled with the bonus points, we should be a lock for [the sea­son fi­nale at] Home­stead,” Truex said. “But at the same time, this is rac­ing and any­thing can hap­pen.”

Busch, who dom­i­nated qual­i­fy­ing ear­lier in the day, was the class of the field early and gained a big

lead after the green flag dropped and led all 20 laps of the first stage. By the eighth time around the 2.45mile cir­cuit, Busch held a 3.4-sec­ond lead over Truex, while Ke­selowski in sixth was 10 sec­onds be­hind. It was Busch’s ninth stage vic­tory of the sea­son.

Busch, who over­came a pit road penalty early in Satur­day’s Xfin­ity race at The Glen and ral­lied to win, had to re­turn to the pits after his

first stop to check for a loose wheel and restarted 34th. By the end of the sec­ond stage, he had worked his way back through the field and was ninth at the end, in con­tention again.

Busch en­coun­tered more trou­ble just past the half­way point of the 90-lap race. His No. 18 Toy­ota suf­fered dam­age after a restart when he made con­tact with Ke­selowski in the In­ner Loop while rac­ing for sev­enth. Ke­selowski bounced into Busch and both slid off course.

An irate Busch pit­ted and Ke­selowski stayed out. Ke­selowski pit­ted a cou­ple of laps later for tires, and when a cau­tion flew he gained the lead for the restart after much of the field pit­ted.

Truex passed Bowyer for sec­ond on lap 61 and caught Ke­selowski three laps later, pass­ing him on the fi­nal turn of lap 64. But with fuel mileage com­ing into play, Truex started to slow his pace, drop­ping back as Ke­selowski and Blaney drove past.

In his fi­nal race at Watkins Glen, Dale Earn­hardt Jr. had to drop out when he ex­pe­ri­enced valve train prob­lems early in the sec­ond stage and parked his No. 88 Chevy in the garage.

“It’s been a lit­tle frus­trat­ing this week­end. This doesn’t make it much bet­ter,” said Earn­hardt, who fin­ished last. “But, I sure have en­joyed rac­ing here and re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the fans here, and the track and the staff. They’ve treated us so good ev­ery time we’ve been here, so it’s been a bless­ing.”

AP/MATT SLOCUM

Martin Truex Jr. (cen­ter) is show­ered with cham­pagne after win­ning Sun­day’s I Love New York NASCAR Mon­ster En­ergy Cup race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) In­ter­na­tional. It was the fourth vic­tory of the sea­son for Truex, the se­ries points leader, who held off Matt Kenseth on the fi­nal lap to win.

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