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NASCAR Cup: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Kansas

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates his win of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 22, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates his win of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 22, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team of Martin Truex Jr. raced with heavy hearts at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City on Sunday, as they lost road-crew fabricator James “Jim Watson” to a heart attack the previous night. But that didn’t keep Truex and company out of victory lane, as they won the Hollywood Casino 400, their seventh win of the season and third of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. It also completed a 2017 Kansas sweep, adding to their win there from earlier this season.

“Definitely racing with heavy hearts today with losing Jim last night,” Truex said. “Want to send our condolences to his family and all of his friends. He was a heck of a guy and a great worker and put a lot of speed in these Furniture Row Toyotas, so glad we could get him one here.”

Kurt Busch finished second.

“I just feel like I’m on razor blades, here,” Busch said. “I really wanted that one bad. At the end, I had the sticker tires. As I’m warming them up, they weren’t grabbing in the back. I knew that I wasn’t going to get the jump that I needed. I tried to play middle of the ground. Early in the race, with scuffs from qualifying, I brushed the fence. Kansas — I don’t know what it is about this place.”

Ryan Blaney was third after starting the race in the back as a result of his car failing post-qualifying inspection Friday. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.

Sunday’s race at Kansas was the elimination race of the second round of the playoffs. Drivers seeing their 2017 championship hopes come to and end included Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson.

Kenseth and McMurray were among the 14 drivers involved in a crash on lap 197 that started with a spin by Erik Jones. Jones also hit the wall head-on and his car got airborne before the crash was over. The race was red-flagged for track clean-up, and Kenseth was parked for the remainder of the race, because his team had one too many crew members working on the car while it was on the five-minute crash-repair clock.

“I don’t know what any of the rules are,” Kenseth said. “Seems like we got a lot of stuff that kind of gets, you know, changed so often. I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins from putting lug nuts out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it to be honest with you. I really don’t have a lot good to say right now. I’m more than disappointed. I’m just gonna say thanks to DeWalt. They’ve been a sponsor of mine off and on for 20 years. Awesome guys, there. They deserve better than this. We showed some flashes of brilliance this season, been off and on, been fast at times, had great pit stops at times, just haven’t been able to put it all together like a championship team needs to. Unfortunately, this is an example of that. I hope that I can do a better job, here, the next four weeks and, hopefully, go get a win.”

Larson retired from the race with the first blown engine of his Cup Series career on lap 77. Stenhouse, meanwhile, struggled throughout the race before finally hitting the wall with just under 100 laps to go.

Some of the drivers who advanced also had their problems. Even eventual race winner Truex wound up in the back twice — first for a restart penalty during the first caution of the race on lap 35 when he went below the white line, and again, when he made an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on lap 91.

“Just couldn’t believe some of the things that were happening and thought there was no way that we were going to win that race at some point,” Truex said. “That first restart violation really caught me by surprise and that hurt, but that wasn’t the last blow we had to take. There was the loose wheel we had to pit for under green and getting a lap down and being able to stay out through that last stage and get that lap back was crucial; without that, we didn’t have a shot. Then, we got back mid-pack and had a couple really good restarts to get some track position and then, really fought the car through that part of the race and had to make some big adjustments, and I felt like at the end, we got dialed in pretty good. I’m pretty happy with that.”

Jimmie Johnson spun twice around lap 200 of the 267-lap race and recovered to finish 11th. Brad Keselowski wound up 13th after two pit-road speeding penalties, including one during the 10th and final caution of the race on lap 235.

“We were good enough and better than our finish,” Keselowski said. “The pit road speeding penalty was ridiculous, because I was way under pit road speed and running right with everyone else both times, and they didn’t get a penalty. I will have to see that one for my own eyes. All in all, my guys put a good effort in it and I think we were better than we finished.”

Kyle Busch led a race-high 112 laps, with those laps coming between Truex stints up front to start and finish the race. Truex led the first 35 laps before his restart penalty and returned to the lead with a pass on Busch with just over 50 laps remaining.

Busch won the first 80-lap stage, but Hamlin won the second with a pit strategy of staying out when the yellow waved with four laps remaining in the stage.

The third and final stage began with Kevin Harvick up front. Busch retook the lead on the restart that followed the Kansas “big one.”

After running up front throughout the middle portion of the race, Busch and Harvick fell victim to the final ill-timed caution that came after both had made green-flag pit stops and, as a result, had gone a lap down. They took the wave-around during the caution and were in the top-10 at the end of the race, with Harvick finishing eighth and Busch 10th.

Other top-10 finishers included Chris Buescher in sixth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in seventh, and Aric Almirola in ninth.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer).

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Posted by on October 23, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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