Craig Murto: Longshot Truex Jr. scores big win


Martin Truex Jr. gave Furniture Row Racing its second NASCAR Sprint Cup win when he crossed the line first at Pocono last weekend, and it may be the start of something big for Truex and the team.

The team led the most laps in the three races prior to Pocono, but just wasn’t able to close the deal. Now Truex is the 10th driver to win this season and should have no problem making the Chase.

Popular with fans and competitors alike, the Truex win was gratifying for a number of reasons.

First of all, Truex’ girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, has been battling cancer for more than a year. She was in attendance at Pocono, and shared in Victory Lane ceremonies.

It was the third Cup win of his career for Truex, who struggled last season. His other wins came at Dover in 2007 and at Sonoma in 2013. The win ended a 69-race winless streak, and was the first NASCAR win for crew chief Cole Pearn.

Perhaps more importantly, Truex lost his paternal grandmother earlier in the week before the victory.

The team hasn’t won since 2011, when Reagan Smith grabbed Furniture Row’s only win at Talladega. Even Kurt Busch wasn’t able to put the 78 car in Victory Lane.

Last season, Truex led a single lap all year. This season the team has been in contention, and now has led the most laps in four consecutive races. This could be just the start of an incredible year for the underdog team based in Denver. If you’re looking for a long shot to place a wager on for the championship, this is your best bet.

Scott Dixon is always a favorite on the IndyCar circuit, and proved it by winning the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. It was interesting to see the teams attempt to adjust to the new aero package on the high-speed oval; the Ganassi team got it right.

The X-Games got it right by inviting AMA flat track to be part of opening night competition. The temporary track was bumpy and tough to race on, but there were thrills and spills and high drama at the end when Jared Mees — who had a big lead and was sure to win gold — broke a chain on the backstretch on the last lap, giving the win and the gold medal to Bryan Smith. Hopefully flat track benefits from the exposure. Be sure to see them compete at Hagerstown on June 20.

There was no such drama in the Grand Prix of Canada Formula One race. Lewis Hamilton started on the pole and won the race, beating his teammate Nico Rosberg and Williams’ Valterri Bottas. Fourth place Kimi Raikkonen threw away a podium finish for Ferrari by spinning on cold tires, whereas fifth place Sebastian Vettel took his Ferrari all the way from the back of the field, and even endured a painfully long six-second botched pit stop to only finish four seconds behind Raikkonen. No wonder Ferrari is hesitant to renew Raikkonen’s contract.

Formula E raced in Moscow and Nelson Piquet Jr. won to strengthen his point lead. He’s blackballed from F1, didn’t succeed at NASCAR; talented, but it’ll be interesting to see where his career takes him. A Formula E title may not mean much to fans, but given the strength of the drivers in the series it could mean a lot to owners.

Former NASCAR driver Robby Gordon struck a fan during competition in the Baja 500 off-road race. Video of the incident shows clearly that the fan was too close to the racing surface. In these off-road events and rally competition, it’s actually surprising such incidents don’t happen more frequently.

Gordon was battling for the lead with the eventual winner when the accident happened. He immediately withdrew and called for his team helicopter to bring the spectator medical assistance. It’s been reported the individual suffered a broken leg.

Do yourself a favor and stay far away from the racing surface when attending motorsport events.

Andy Anderson did himself a favor by winning the $4,000 finale of Seventh Annual Appalachian Mountain Dirt Late Model Series Speedweek at Hagerstown Speedway, beating Gary Stuhler to the win. In Late Model Sportsman competition, after winning at Winchester the previous week and Bedford the night before, Travis Stickley continued his roll by recording his first triumph at Hagerstown.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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