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NSCS: Martin Truex Jr. Routs the Field to Win the Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — Breaking a year long string of bad luck, Martin Truex Jr. has won the Coca-Cola 600, leading more miles in a single race than any other driver in the history of NASCAR.

Five hundred eighty eight miles, 392 laps. Let that sink in for a moment. Truex only relinquished the lead when he was making green flag pit stops, he was never officially passed on track for position.

On lap 345, what would amount to the final restart of the event, six time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson made a move around Truex coming out of turn two, it was a sliver of false hope. “I had to give him something,” Truex joked after the race. Going into turn three on the same lap Truex dove into the corner harder than he had all evening, his driving said it all. He was not going to let this one slip away.

Johnson finished the night third after being passed by Kevin Harvick on the final green flag run of the marathon event. “It’s nice when you have a car like that,” Johnson said after the race. “I’m so proud of the effort we put in tonight. This is the best car I’ve had in Charlotte for a long long time, just shows you how good the 78 is.”

Johnson clearly had a lot of respect for Truex’s accomplishment. When the No. 78 Bass Pro Shop Toyota came down pit road, on its way to victory lane, Johnson paused his interview with media members to congratulate the newest NSCS winner of 2016. What did he say? “I didn’t get to say much,” said Johnson. “The motor was running so I just gave him a high five.”

Ending the night 2.573 seconds behind the race winner was Kevin Harvick. The second place driver was not in the least bit dejected by coming up one position short of the trophy. In fact happy Harvick was “just really really happy” when he spoke to the media post race. “We struggled for the first 450 miles,” said Harvick but his team “kept swinging at it.”

When asked about his record setting domination Truex didn’t “even know what to say.” “I’m really proud,” said Truex. “We keep fighting and never give up. We never quit. I’m just proud of my guys for sticking behind me.” In Victory Lane he apologized to Marcus Smith for stinking “up the show, but (he) really wanted this win.”

Breaking another record, the Coca-Cola 600 was run at a blistering pace, with an average speed of 160.644 miles per hour. Wrapping up in under four hours (3:44:08), it was the shortest 600 mile event in series history.

Truex’s Furniture Row Racing team has looked more bad luck in the eye than any other NSCS team so far this season. In February, the team lost the Daytona 500 to Denny Hamlin by 0.002 seconds. In Texas the No. 78 dominated the race but the effort lost its backbone when a hung lugnut forced an extra pitstop. A few weeks later Truex lost another opportunity to visit victory lane when he was the victim of a wreck created by Jimmie Johnson’s broken transmission. On Sunday night, however, as Johnson eloquently put it, “he wasn’t going to be denied.”

It was almost another heart break though. With around a hundred laps to go Truex came to pit road. His crew chief, Cole Pearn, told him he wore out his right front tire but what he didn’t tell him was how close the team came to tragedy. Pearn figured the right front tire would have gone flat if Truex hadn’t pitted the exact lap that he did.

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