Martin Truex Jr. wins with a sensational strategy at Watkins Glen


Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Martin Truex Jr has won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at Watkins Glen in a race that came down to fuel mileage. A long green flag stretch in the final segment of the race left most of the field trying to save fuel to make it to the end. Others elected to go flat-out and make a pit-stop, but in the end, Truex came out on top.

It was a challenging race for Truex. With so many cars right on the edge of making it to the end on fuel, crew chief Cole Pearn instructed Truex to fuel save heavily. This meant surrendering the lead to those they believed would have to stop again, such as the #2 of Brad Keselowski and the #21 of Ryan Blaney.

Things really escalated as the race entered its final ten laps. Some drivers started to realize that they simply weren’t going to make it on fuel, so they pitted early. Chase Elliott was one of the first to abandon the cause, with Kyle Busch following a few laps later having worked his way back up toward the top five after earlier escapades. Brad Keselowski finally relinquished the lead to pit for fuel, but he would write himself out of contention after being penalized for driving through too many pit-stalls on his way into his box.

At the front, Ryan Blaney was left out front after Keselowski bailed out, but Blaney would be denied his second win in the Cup series when his #21 Wood Brothers Ford ran out of gas with just three laps left. This put Martin Truex Jr back to the front, but he was still heavily saving fuel.

Truex took the white flag at the start of lap ninety – but he now had the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Matt Kenseth right in his mirrors. Kenseth gave it everything he could, but despite a lock-up for Truex at the penultimate corner, he just couldn’t find a way to get by. Truex and his crew chief’s fantastic fuel strategy paid off, with the #78 car crossing the line to take a fourth victory in 2017 to further underline their intentions as the championship playoffs draw near.

“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment just because I’ve been thinking about this one a long time – all weekend, all day.” Said Truex in victory lane, “Then, at the end there just it’s so hard there to let guys pass you for the lead. You’ve just got to listen to your crew chief and luckily for me I’ve got the best one in the business and I just believe in him so much and I just do what he says and it seems to work out.”

Kenseth was just under a second off of the race win, with the driver of the #20 car needing a win in the next four races to bag himself a spot in the playoffs. Two of Kenseth’s three team-mates finished just behind, with rookie Daniel Suarez having a standout performance to finish third ahead of Denny Hamlin. Suarez put in arguably his best race yet in the Cup series after having managed to take his first ever stage victory in the second segment by holding off a hard charging Truex before going on to take third place overall.

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Clint Bowyer, as expected, featured at the front for much of the race but never managed to work his way to the race lead. He took a strong fifth place ahead of his Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate Kurt Busch.

Kyle Busch’s day started off so well. The #18 M&M’s Toyota Camry driver started from pole position after an unbelievable lap in qualifying earlier in the day. He converted his pole position into a stage one victory, but stage two saw him come unstuck. He pitted between stages, as did most of the field, but on leaving the pits he discovered that his left-front wheel was loose; forcing him to pit again. This put him at the back of the field.

With such a fast car underneath him, Kyle started to make up positions, but when he tried to pass the #2 of Brad Keselowski on the outside of the bus stop chicane on lap forty-five, the pair came together and spun off track. This forced him to pit again due to damage, but the field would bunch up once again at the final caution, allowing Busch to start a charge back toward the front that would earn him a seventh place finish.

Ryan Blaney’s late stop for fuel relegated him to an eighth place finish ahead of AJ Allmendinger – who continued to struggle with his #47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet throughout the race – with Erik Jones driving a solid race to complete the top ten in the #77. Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell finished just outside of the top ten in positions eleven and twelve respectively, with both drivers putting in great efforts to outperform their machinery.

Brad Keselowski will be rueing what might’ve been at Watkins Glen. His incident with Kyle Busch at the bus stop, followed by his late-race penalty in the pits forced him to fifteenth. Kevin Harvick similarly had a tough day, finishing seventeenth despite heavy front-nose damage after colliding with Brett Moffitt on pit-road before also suffering a suspension failure with a handful of laps remaining.

Further back, Boris Said completed his final NASCAR Cup series race in only thirtieth place; but maybe he’ll take some satisfaction having finished just behind seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson may have had a poor result, but at least he finished unlike his team-mate Dale Earnhardt Jr, who was forced to retire from the race after an engine issue struck the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; a sad way for Dale Jr’s final start at Watkins Glen to end.

Next week, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the second time this year. Kyle Larson took his first ever Cup series victory in the Pure Michigan 400 one year ago. Can he end his midseason slump by taking a third straight win at the fastest track on the calendar?

2017 I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at the Glen race results:

PosCar #DriverManufacturerLaps Led
178Martin Truex JrToyota24
220Matt KensethToyota0
319Daniel SuarezToyota14
411Denny HamlinToyota0
514Clint BowyerFord0
641Kurt BuschFord0
718Kyle BuschToyota21
821Ryan BlaneyFord2
947AJ AllmendingerChevrolet0
1077Erik JonesToyota0
1137Chris BuescherChevrolet0
1295Michael McDowellChevrolet0
1324Chase ElliottChevrolet9
141Jamie McMurrayChevrolet0
152Brad KeselowskiFord20
165Kasey KahneChevrolet0
174Kevin HarvickFord0
1827Paul MenardChevrolet0
1913Ty DillonChevrolet0
2017Ricky Stenhouse JrFord0
2143Aric AlmirolaFord0
2210Danica PatrickFord0
2342Kyle LarsonChevrolet0
2422Joey LoganoFord0
2531Ryan NewmanChevrolet0
263Austin DillonChevrolet0
2738David RaganFord0
2832Matt DiBenedettoFord0
2948Jimmie JohnsonChevrolet0
3033Boris SaidChevrolet0
3115Gary KluttChevrolet0
3283Brett MoffittToyota0
3323Corey LaJoieToyota0
3472Cole WhittChevrolet0
356Trevor BayneFord0
3634Landon CassillFord0
3788Dale Earnhardt JrChevrolet0