Truex chas­ing ti­tle as cur­rent king of the road

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Mlb - By John Kekis As­so­ci­ated Press

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Martin Truex Jr. has a chance to join for­mer NASCAR greats Jeff Gor­don and Tony Ste­wart as kings of the roads.

Truex is seek­ing his third con­sec­u­tive vic­tory on a road course in NASCAR’s stop today at Watkins Glen. The 11-turn, 3.4-mile cir­cuit joins Sonoma (Cal­i­for­nia) Race­way as the only two true road cour­ses on the Cup sched­ule.

Gor­don, with nine ca­reer road course vic­to­ries, won six straight races from 1997-2000. His streak in­cluded three wins each at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Ste­wart, with eight ca­reer road course wins, won three straight from 2004-05.

Truex won at Watkins Glen last sum­mer, in Cal­i­for­nia in June, and now is chas­ing Ste­wart and Gor­don for the mark of three straight. The reign­ing Cup cham­pion fig­ures he’s suc­cess­ful on road cour­ses be­cause he en­joys the chal­lenge of the rare right-hand turns.

“It’s a unique set of cir­cum­stances. It’s an ex­tra-spe­cial feel­ing to win on tracks that are com­pletely dif­fer­ent like this,” Truex said Satur­day, in­sist­ing he could be go­ing for four straight if not for an en­gine fail­ure at Sonoma last year. His Fur­ni­ture Row Rac­ing No. 78 Toy­ota led 25 laps in that race be­fore the en­gine blew.

“I think we should have three in a row al­ready with the trou­ble we had at Sonoma last year, but that’s kind of the way it goes in rac­ing,” he added.

Truex is part of the “Big 3” in NASCAR that is dominating the sea­son. Truex, Kevin Har­vick and Kyle Busch have com­bined to win 16 of the 21 Cup races. Truex has four vic­to­ries, but three of those wins have come in the last eight out­ings. The Sonoma win was by a mar­gin of over 10 sec­onds and was aided by crew chief Cole Pearn’s gam­ble to pit off-se­quence from the rest of the lead­ers.

Pearn was piv­otal last year at The Glen when the No. 78 won a strate­gic fuel mileage race. Truex held off Matt Kenseth on the fi­nal lap af­ter Brad Ke­selowski and Ryan Blaney were forced to pit for gas as the race wound to­ward the check­ered flag.

“You do what you can do,” said Ke­selowski, a three-time run­nerup at The Glen, “if it takes strat­egy to win, you play strat­egy. If you can win on speed, you try to win on speed.”

Op­por­tu­ni­ties to win have been rare this sea­son be­cause of the Big 3 and Joey Logano doesn’t ex­pect those driv­ers to give an inch Sun­day on the high-speed road course. Busch, Har­vick and Truex are the only ac­tive driv­ers in the Cup Se­ries with pre­vi­ous wins at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

“I still ex­pect the same cars to be fast,” Logano said. “It wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing to see those three cars be­ing three of the fastest.”

The trio was as dom­i­nant as al­ways last week at Po­cono when Busch and Har­vick had to start at the back of the field af­ter their cars failed post-qual­i­fy­ing in­spec­tion. They re­sponded by quickly work­ing their way to the front and Busch cap­tured his sixth vic­tory of the sea­son in his No. 18 Toy­ota, hold­ing off Joe Gibbs Rac­ing team­mate Daniel Suarez on a restart in over­time. Catch­ing up has been an up­hill bat­tle, even for driv­ers un­der the same roof.

“I truly be­lieve that to be fast at the race­track, you need to have a fast car out of the hauler,” Suarez said. “That’s key. It’s im­pos­si­ble when you get the car out of the hauler to make that 20th-place car a win­ning race car by the end of sec­ond prac­tice. That doesn’t hap­pen be­cause ev­ery­body is im­prov­ing and you can­not im­prove that much.”

Today will be a marathon for NASCAR and the teams be­cause in­spec­tion this week was moved to prior to the race. At Po­cono, a two­day “en­hanced week­end” like Watkins Glen, the in­spec­tions were per­formed af­ter Satur­day qual­i­fy­ing and it took hours with sev­eral cars fail­ing.

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