Truex Continues Dominance With NASCAR Playoff Win

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. [Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images]

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. [Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images]

by Paul Gohde

“You gotta get it done, and I guess we did that today.”

It didn’t take long for Martin Truex Jr. to back up his regular season championship in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series with a dominating, come-from-behind win Sunday in the Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Busch led from his pole-position spot and held off Truex and the field for the first 88 laps. Truex was penalized for speeding out of the pits on lap 39 and it looked a deep hole was forming in front of the Furniture Row pits.

“We screwed up. Obviously we were too fast and had to play catch-up,” noted Truex who has now won five times in 2017. “I thought ‘here we go again’ after the penalty, but we just kept working hard and Kyle’s problems gave us the break we needed to catch up.”

Busch, who led the 85 of the first 87 laps lost the lead to Kevin Harvick’s Jimmy John’s Ford on a Lap 88 restart and within 11 laps was also penalized for having a crew member over the wall too soon on a pit stop. The ensuing drive-through penalty dropped him to 30th spot-two laps down-and after that it was pretty much Harvick’s race until he and Chase Elliott’s NAPA Chevrolet traded the top spot until Lap 190.

“This was a much improved day for us. I don’t know if we would have had anything for Kyle if he had been on our lap,” the second-generation Elliott explained. “We need more days like this to move forward.” Elliott finished second and is solidly in the Playoff picture.

“We saw the 78 make mistakes today, but they had a fast enough car to recover from that, Harvick added, “but the 18 (Busch) didn’t recover from his.”

Truex worked his way through the field for 150 laps, but was always within sight of the leaders. He finally got by Elliott on Lap 184 and reeled Harvick in a few laps later. His margin stretched to 7.1 seconds at the end, with no real fear of being challenged.

“We worked on the car all day after our problem earlier and tried to keep the pressure on when we were behind,” said a relaxed winner who had spent five minutes in the bathroom washing off the green slime he was drenched in during victory lane ceremonies. “It was worth it because it was not an easy day.”

Denny Hamlin finished fourth followed by Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

Truex was his usual humble self after the race, glad to have won, but knowing challenges will be ahead.

“We’re locked in (for the second round of playoffs), but it doesn’t stop you from wanting to win again…This is the best position I’ve ever been in. You can’t deny it…We’re taking advantage of it.”

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”