Craig Murto: Truex’s win truly history

Craig Murto

Martin Truex’s win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is NASCAR history we’ll never see repeated.

To say Truex spanked the field is an understatement. He led 392 of 400 laps for a total of 588 of the 600 miles, completing the fastest 600 in history in 3 hours, 44 minutes and 8 seconds at an average speed of 160.644 mph.

If it were second place Kevin Harvick or third place Jimmie Johnson who dominated the race so completely, we may be lamenting the most boring race we’ve seen in years. But this was Truex, driving the Furniture Row Toyota based in Denver, Colorado, a single-car team that while capable of winning races is not expected to dominate.

Every now and then a team shows up at a track and just whips the field. A number of years ago Jeff Burton led all 300 laps on his way to victory at New Hampshire. But even that dominating performance doesn’t compare to what Truex did Sunday night.

Consider the fact that Charlotte Motor Speedway is notorious for changing track conditions with even the slightest change in track temperature. When Truex grabbed the pole in qualifying and paced the field in practice, the track surface was nearly 140 degrees. But when the race started in overcast conditions the surface barely reached 100 degrees. Typical Charlotte logic would dictate that Truex, as well as the rest of the field, would have handling problems from the get-go.

That was true of the rest of the field, but Truex drove away. And even as afternoon became dusk and later became night, the only adjustment anybody noticed to Truex’s car was the removal or addition of tape to the nose.

That’s not to say the race was flawless. The pit crew didn’t always make the fastest green-flag stops. But Truex had such a good lead on the field that he still cycled back to the lead once everybody pit.

With only a handful of laps to go, Kyle Busch hit the wall hard on the backstretch coming off Turn 2. He was able to get his car to the pits. Normally such a hard hit would draw a caution, to at least check the track for debris. In fact, the day before in the Xfinity Series race, Kyle Larson’s big lead evaporated and he eventually lost the race when NASCAR threw a late caution for much less of an incident.

Thankfully, NASCAR used discretion and allowed the race to finish. Perhaps if it were Harvick or Johnson dominating, the caution would have flown and the race dragged into overtime. A good argument can be made that the caution should have waved.

But this was Martin Truex Jr., the underdog, the driver who should have won three or four races this season but for bad luck. This was Truex, whose longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex survived cancer. This was Truex, whose foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and funding for childhood and ovarian cancer initiatives. No caution waved, and Truex made history that, given the level of competition and the way Charlotte Motor Speedway changes, will never happen again.

The day started with the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix, and for the second race in a row Daniel Ricciardo had reason to be upset with his Red Bull team. In Spain they practically stole the race from him and handed it to teammate Max Verstappen through strategy; in Monaco they brought him in to change tires, and didn’t have the tires ready in the pit stall. He led the race up to that point, but the botched stop handed the win to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

The Indy 500 was a very competitive, entertaining race, eventually won by rookie Alexander Rossi, who finished the race on fumes and ran out of fuel before he completed a cool-down lap.

The best race of the weekend was the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dominion Raceway on Monday afternoon. Officials had to study film to determine that Spencer Davis beat Justin Haley by inches. The race can be seen on TV tonight on the NBC Sports Channel.

Kenny Moreland grabbed his first feature win of the year at Winchester Speedway in his Super Late model on Saturday night. Winchester will host the Ultimate Super Late Model Series on Sunday evening.

Saturday night Hagerstown hosts a $1,500-to-win Late Model Sportsman event. The Pro All Stars Series Super late Models compete at South Boston on Saturday night. Dominion Raceway opens up again on June 11.

Be sure to visit a local or regional racetrack this weekend; you never know when you might be present for racing history in the making.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.