Martin Truex’s fuel-saving tactics were just good enough. Or, if you prefer a different adjective, the tactics were absolutely fantastic.
With three wins to his name already in 2017, Truex and the No. 78 decided to go for the win over the final stage of Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen and save as much fuel as possible in lieu of a pit stop. Truex did just that, nearly running out of gas on the final corner of the race and beating Matt Kenseth by a couple car lengths for win No. 4 in 2017.
Truex had the second-best car throughout the course of Sunday’s race. The best car belonged to Kyle Busch. But Busch’s strategy got all screwed up thanks to a tangle with Brad Keselowski in the beginning moments of the final stage and Truex ended up as the best car at the front of the field.
“That was so stressful to just let guys go by for the lead, I’ve never had to do that before,” Truex said of his ever-slowing pace over the race’s final laps. “I’ve got so much trust in [crew chief Cole Pearn] and he was telling me what to do. He knew based on our lap times and how fast we were going what we needed to do.”
While Truex had a great car, he couldn’t use it because he needed to get to the finish on fuel. Keselowski, who inherited the lead following his spin with Busch after a caution flag for Landon Cassill, served as the rabbit for the rest of the field when the race went green for the final time with 37 laps to go.
[Full results: Suarez third, Hamlin fourth and Bowyer fifth]
Keselowski had to pit following the Busch incident, so he was out of fuel-saving range. He ran as hard as he could until there were four laps to go before he had to pit.
Truex had passed Keselowski for the lead as they were racing straight-up shortly after the caution flag, but gave the lead back to Keselowski because he knew the No. 2 car couldn’t make it to the end.
Keselowski’s pit stop gave the lead to Ryan Blaney, who ran out of gas with less than three laps to go. Blaney then handed the lead over to Truex, who kept Kenseth at bay just long enough.
Truex, the current points leader, is now by far the favorite in NASCAR’s playoffs. The five playoff points for the win gives him 34 points to use in the first three rounds of the playoffs. And if he finishes the regular season at the top of the points standings — a pretty safe bet unless catastrophe strikes given his 116-point lead over Kyle Busch — Truex will pick up another 15 points.
That’s 49 points if you don’t want to do math. The race maximum if a driver wins the first two stages of a race and the race itself is 60. At this rate, Truex may get to 60 playoff points by the time Sep. 17 rolls around.
– – – – – – –