Long Pond, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Martin Truex Jr. snapped a two-year winless streak in the Sprint Cup Series with a dominating performance in Sunday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Truex, the driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing, a single- car team based in Denver, Colorado, led 97 of 160 laps, including the final 27. He held off Kevin Harvick, the defending series champion, in the closing laps, beating Harvick to the finish line by 1.3 seconds.
It was the third career victory for Truex in Sprint Cup but his first win since June 23, 2013 on the Sonoma, California road course (69 races ago). He drove for Michael Waltrip Racing at the time.
Truex, a 34-year-old Mayetta, New Jersey native, became the 10th different driver to win a race in the series this season and therefore virtually guaranteed himself a spot in the 16-driver field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Truex has led the most laps in each of the past four races.
“It feels unbelievable,” Truex said after his lengthy winless drought came to an end. “I can’t thank all of these guys enough at Furniture Row. What a great group of guys. I knew were going to get one. Everybody kept asking me, ‘When are going to win?’ I knew we had the team, and I knew we had what it took. We just had to get things to play out the way we needed them to. I feel like I’m on cloud nine right now.”
Truex gave Furniture Row Racing its second win in Sprint Cup competition. The team’s maiden victory occurred in 2011 when driver Regan Smith took the checkered flag for the Southern 500 at Darlington. In 2013, Furniture Row became the first single-car team to qualify for the Chase when Kurt Busch, driving for the team at the time, made the playoffs.
Harvick has finished in the runner-up spot eight times this season. He placed second last Sunday at Dover. Harvick won back-to-back races at Las Vegas and Phoenix in March.
“I’m really happy for Martin,” Harvick said. “If you’re going to lose to somebody, that’s a great person to lose to.”
Harvick and Truex, currently 1-2 in the point standings, have each scored 13 top-10 finishes in the first 14 races this season.
“We’ve had a good run. We’ve had a great season,” Truex said.
Truex recorded only one top-five finish and five top-10s in his first season with Furniture Row in 2014. He placed 24th in points. Truex had been with Michael Waltrip’s team from 2010-13. He made the Chase for the second time in his career in 2012. His maiden appearance in the playoff was in 2007, the year he claimed his first career Sprint Cup victory at Dover.
Jimmie Johnson, who won his series-leading fourth race of the season at Dover, finished third here after he cut a tire and sustained damage to his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet just past the halfway point.
“To get a good result, we overcame a lot today, having to deal with a flat tire and damage to the car,” Johnson said. “I got to third. We’ll take it. Scrappy day for us but not the end of the world.”
A driver from Hendrick Motorsports had won the last five races at Pocono — Jeff Gordon (August 2012), Johnson (June 2013), Kasey Kahne (August 2013) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014 season sweep).
Joey Logano had to start from the rear of the field due to a rear-end gear change prior to the race and then received a pit-road speeding penalty in the early going, but Logano bounced back nicely to finish fourth. Kurt Busch, the pole sitter, was fifth.
Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin completed the top-10. Earnhardt finished 11th in his attempt to win a third straight race at this track. Kahne placed 13th and Gordon 14th.