Pressure can either make or break a team. It’s sometimes cost NFL teams a championship, a college team a game, or sometimes a student on an exam.
In NASCAR, pressure equals the Chase. Before, it was 10 races to decide a champion. Now it’s three races to even continue. One mistake could cost points, positions, and an opportunity.
Certainly Martin Truex Jr. has seen his share of bad luck this season, but in two races all his luck fell right. He led the most laps at Darlington three weeks ago, then in Charlotte the No. 78 team blew through the competition like a bulldozer through a dirt pile.
In the Chase, the pressure goes up and mistakes can happen. It did for a moment, when Truex brought his car to pit road complaining of a flat tire. He lost one lap, but rather than panic and let the pressure build, he calmed down and told the team they would get it back.
A caution later, he did just that.
In the end he then had another pressure moment when he and the field came to pit road on a late caution. The pit crew needed to do their job to get them back in the lead, as they were running second at the time. When the pit stops were through, he left in the lead, but was behind others that decided to stay out.
On that restart, he made it work. Two laps later, he was spinning donuts in victory, and soon after adding his Contender Round sticker above the window of his Toyota.
The first thing he did when he emerged from the car was to high-five every member of his pit crew, because they were the ones who got the job done. Truex did his job on the track, but if it wasn’t for the team behind him, not letting the pressure get to any to cause a mistake that could cost positions, points, and possibly a championship, slip away. This team a few years ago were the little team that was trying, and when Truex came on board they became that little team that could.
When he won last season in Pocono, Furniture Row Racing became the little team that can, and it nearly won them a title.
This year, thanks to a new alliance, new resources, and a new found confidence, this team could possibly become the little team that will.
RESULTS: 1-Truex Jr. 2-Logano 3-Elliott 4-Blaney 5-Keselowski 6-Hamlin 7-Kahne 8-Kyle Busch 9-Kenseth 10-Bowman
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-McMurray 12-Johnson 13-Kurt Busch 14-Dillon 15-Edwards 16-Stewart 18-Larson 20-Harvick 28-Buescher
CAUTIONS: 4 for 22 laps. 50-55 (Debris-FS); 121-125 (#44 Spin-T4); 193-198 (Debris-BS); 264-268 (#95 Accident-T4).
LEAD CHANGES: 17 among 9 drivers. Kyle Busch 1-21; M. Truex Jr 22-51; B. Keselowski 52; J. Johnson 53-102; B. Keselowski 103-105; J. Johnson 106-120; C. Elliott 121; J. Johnson 122-170; B. Keselowski 171-173; J. Johnson 174-177; C. Elliott 178-234; D. Hamlin 235-236; J. Logano 237; R. Blaney # 238-242; A.
Bowman 243-248; C. Elliott 249-265; R. Blaney 266-268; M. Truex Jr 269-270.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 47 Mins, 24 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 145.161 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.776 Seconds
CHASE STANDINGS: 1. Truex Jr, 2050 points*; 2. Keselowski, -1; 3. Kyle Busch, -4; 4. Hamlin, -5; 5. Logano, -7; 6. Elliott, -11; 7. Kenseth, -12; 8. Johnson, -13; 9. Edwards, -18; 10. Kurt Busch, -19; 11. McMurray, -20; 12. Stewart, -22; 13. Dillon, -23; 14. Harvick, -23; 15. Larson, -24; 16. Buescher, -34.
*Advances automatically to next round.