Alright, now I want to start this week’s column by first making sure I say a heartfelt thank you to our Armed Forces for keeping us free to enjoy the freedom to do as we please in this country. And also honor those that have laid down their lives to make sure that our freedom remains.
That is what this weekend is all about, because when one hears the playing of “Taps,” it means someone else was lost to ensure we all remain free.
That being said, I have to say that on Sunday, I have never seen anything that could match what occurred at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. I have seen a lot in this sport, and I’ve been watching since 1993. I have seen three races at Talladega go flag-to-flag without a caution waving. I have seen the closest recorded finish in NASCAR’s history, 0.002 seconds, happen not just once…but twice, and it be two completely different circumstances.
I’ve seen Dale Earnhardt finally conquer the Daytona 500 in 1998, then three years later I watched his accident in the same race on television that ultimately took his life. Six years ago, I was present when NASCAR raced on September 11, and I’ve been at the track on my birthday. I saw drivers lead only one lap, but it be the lap that mattered most, and even a race where one driver led the entire distance.
If it can be considered, or has occurred, I likely have seen it. That is…until Sunday night.
Twelve miles, and eight laps. Those numbers may not have any meaning, or if you are a race fan it may refer to how many miles or laps short one driver could be from making it to the finish. But that is not the case this week.
Martin Truex Jr. has seen so much heartache this season, it’s like the movie Groundhog Day except with different circumstances. He was inches short of winning the Daytona 500. At Texas a pit decision ended up costing him spots late. Come Kansas, he experienced the most dominant car…only to have a screw hang up in between the wheel and hub to force him to pit road, and ultimately a win. A strong car at Dover was destroyed when he got caught up in a late accident.
Time, after time, after time…the deal wasn’t done.
Charlotte is the longest race of the season; that extra 100 miles tests everything a team has, from equipment to one’s own health and wellness. But on this day, which became this night, one car was the story. After 100 miles, it was Truex at the front. Then again at 200 miles, and 300 miles.
At 400 miles, he still had the pack in tow, and again at 500 miles. After such a long time out front, everyone, including Truex himself, began wondering what could take it away this time.
Laps clicked off, but nothing happened. It got closer to the end, his girlfriend Sherry Pollex nervous as ever. After beating ovarian cancer, Truex wanted a victory not just for him and the team, but for his girl, who he said time-and-time again gave him strength to continue on.
Three laps to go…two laps to go…then the white flag. What could take it away now?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing took this one away. Martin Truex Jr. finally closed the deal in the longest race of the season, something worth celebrating after all he’s endured.
But what about those numbers at the beginning, 12 miles and eight laps. It’s simple. Jimmie Johnson led on three occasions for five laps, then Joey Logano took the lead for one circuit, and Paul Menard was out front for another two laps. In total, that is eight laps, and on a 1.5-mile speedway that is 12 miles in distance.
Those numbers, 12 miles and 8 laps, are the only laps that Truex was not out front. The No. 78 Toyota led more miles and more laps in that race than any other driver led in any other race in the history of the sport. To put that in perspective, this sport of stock car racing began in 1948, meaning as of now NASCAR is going on 68 years old. To say that one driver never led more laps, nor more miles, in one race than any other driver in the history of the sport, it’s meaningful. That means Truex has done something more than the likes of Petty, Elliott, Earnhardt, Gordon, and others.
That is how dominant that team and that car was on Sunday. And I can guarantee you, which is something I do not say often, but I guarantee you that you will never see something like that occur again. That is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, never duplicated.
All you can say about that race is simply…wow!
RESULTS: 1-Truex Jr. 2-Harvick 3-Johnson 4-Hamlin 5-Keselowski 6-Kurt Busch 7-Kenseth 8-Elliott 9-Logano 10-Newman
NOTABLE FINISHES: 14-Earnhardt Jr. 18-Edwards 24-Stewart 33-Kyle Busch
CAUTIONS: 4 for 19 laps. Lap 27-30 (Competition Caution); 115-120 (#44 Accident-Turn 2); 205-209 (#32 Accident-Turn 4); 341-344 (Debris-Backstretch).
LEAD CHANGES: 9 among 4 drivers. Truex Jr. 1-77, Johnson 78-79, Truex Jr. 80-164, Johnson 165, Logano 166, Truex Jr. 167-298, Menard 299-300, Truex Jr. 301 -343, Johnson 344-345, Truex Jr. 346-400.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 44 Mins, 5 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 160.655 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 2.572 Seconds
CHASE GRID: 1. Kyle Busch-405 (points), 3 (wins); 2. Johnson-409, 2; 3. Edwards-404, 2; 4. Keselowski-404, 2; 5. Harvick-457, 1; 6. Truex Jr-381, 1; 7. Kenseth-347, 1; 8. Hamlin-345, 1; 9. Kurt Busch, -36 (from 1st-Harvick); 10. Elliott, -83; 11. Logano, -84; 12. Dillon, -113; 13. Earnhardt Jr, -116; 14. McMurray, -139; 15. Blaney, -148; 16. Newman, -148.