Tha Sports Junkies 101

Martin Truex Jr Wins Homestead Race, 1st Cup Series Championship



4 drivers, 400 miles, 1 champion. This was the premise for Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season finale did not disappoint, as Martin Truex Jr won his first championship.

Pre-race Festivities

In addition to the Championship 4, 3 other drivers were being honored in this race. Homestead would mark the final starts as full-time drivers for Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth, and fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. Patrick finished her last race for Stewart-Haas Racing in a dismal 37th position after a lap 143 crash. Kenseth finished the day in 8th after starting 4th, having a strong run all day. Lastly, Dale Jr finished his final race in the 88 in 25th, 3 laps down. However, Dale did complete his goal of still running at the finish.

Denny Hamlin started the day on the pole but lost the lead to True Jr on lap 1. Hamlin would remain a fast contender all day, eventually finishing 9th.

Another non-Playoff driver who led laps was Kyle Larson. Considered a favorite for this race, Larson led 145 laps and won both Stages before finishing 3rd. In classic Larson-style, he ran right against the wall for the majority of the race. Larson seemed to have the fastest car at the end of the race, but let the championship contenders fight it out among themselves for the win.

Championship Contender’s Fight

Each of the Championship 4 drivers started the day in the top 10. Martin Truex Jr started 2nd, Kyle Busch was 3rd, Brad Keselowski 5th, and Kevin Harvick started the day in 9th. For a majority of the race, they were all racing in the top 5, at one point running 2nd-3rd-4th-5th behind Larson. Each of them led the championship at some time during the race.

At the end of Stage 1, the championship was led by Keselowski, who used pit strategy to leapfrog his competitors. Truex had the upper hand at the Stage 2 break. Heading into the final stage, it was still a 4-way fight for the Cup Series crown, as all 4 drivers were in the top 5. The championship lead would switch multiple times throughout the day, as the battle came down to the closing laps.

Lap 229 saw the 5th and final caution of the day for a spinning Kurt Busch. This caution gave the advantage to Truex, as Kyle Busch was attempting to race the final race stint with just 1 pit stop. Truex had taken the lead from Busch just a few laps prior. The pit stop went flawlessly for team 78, as Truex would retain the lead.

Throughout the race Truex had the advantage over Busch on the short run. However, the 18 would become the fastest car after 5 or so laps. In the waning laps, Busch was beating Truex’s lap times by several tenths. Miraculously, Truex was able to hold off several late race charges from Busch to win the race.

The top 10 finishers in Homestead’s season finale were as follows. Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman.

The Not-so-Little Engine that Could

By winning the 2017 Cup Series championship, Furniture Row Racing is the first championship team not based near Charlotte since 1988. Their weekly venture from Denver, Colorado proved challenging at times but did not hamper their ability to perform. In addition to the 78 team being the champion, the 77 team and driver Erik Jones was crowned Rookie of the Year. Both of these accomplishments come just days after team owner Barney Visser had bypass surgery in response to a heart attack. This was just 1 instance of the many trying adversities to strike Furniture Row Racing in 2017. In the end, this team was able to rally together in the championship race and win the sport’s ultimate prize.

Martin Truex Jr’s 2017 Cup Series season was truly remarkable. 8 wins, 19 top 5s, 26 top 10s, 19 Stage wins, 3 poles, and 2253 laps led all came en route to Truex’s first championship.

2017 may be over for NASCAR racing, but fear not. The 2018 season is just around the corner, as the 60th Daytona 500 is less than 90 days away.