CHARLOTTE — Martin Truex Jr. dominated a race — again. Only this time, he finally finished in Victory Lane in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Truex led 392 laps, a new track record for the Coca-Cola 600. He also paced the field for 588 miles, the most in any race in NASCAR history. After coming up short in Atlanta, Texas and Kansas — where he led a combined 347 laps — Truex finally sealed a spot in the Chase.
The Furniture Row Racing driver has lost in every way imaginable. A last-lap pass by Denny Hamlin in the Daytona 500 and a broken bolt at Kansas stick out as the most disappointing. Truex seemingly erased all of that heartache in the most grueling race in NASCAR.
“I told [Charlotte general manager] Marcus [Smith] in Victory Lane, ‘I’m really sorry I stunk up your show,'” Truex said of his record performance. “But I was not about to let off. And I really wanted to get this win.”
No other car was competitive with Truex, but Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson closed the gap at times. They finished first and second, respectively, with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.
The only person more emotional than Truex in Victory Lane was his girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has battled ovarian cancer for more than a year. With Truex fighting his own demons just to claim a checkered flag, Pollex couldn’t contain herself after the race.
While the racing had just one leader for nearly the entire race, Joey Logano, who finished ninth, doesn’t believe it was a product of the new aero package for 2016.
“We had nothing for the 78,” Logano said. “Martin Truex Jr. was on fire tonight, really all weekend. … At times I thought we were a second-place car, but it was a distant second.”
So how was he that dominant in Charlotte?
“Well, I don’t know,” he explained with a grin, “If I knew, we would do it! He led 390-something laps, for crying out loud. I mean, geez, that’s incredible.”
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Johnson, one of the only other drivers to lead a lap on Sunday night, said he still battled with his car at Charlotte, despite the ease that Truex showed with the lead all night.
“I almost busted my butt a couple times on the throttle,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to get the package right at every track. I think we’ve made improvements over last year here and put on a much better show. We go to some tracks and I think this package looks phenomenal. That’s just showing us that we’re going the right way. We just need to go further at some race tracks.”
Ultimately, the night was a success for NASCAR with Truex, a true underdog story, winning the race. Had Johnson or Harvick led 392 laps and won the race, the outcry from NASCAR fans would be louder than the cars on the track.
But for one night, over the course of 600 miles, Truex couldn’t be stopped. Not by a broken bolt or a last-lap pass. Not by Harvick or Johnson. The Coca-Cola 600, for one night, belonged to the single-car team that nobody can stop.