Martin Truex Jr has won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship after winning the final race of the season; the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The #78 Furniture Row Racing driver held off title rival Kyle Busch in a thirty lap sprint to the chequered flag to seal his first NASCAR Cup Series title.
As many may have predicted heading into the finale, the championship would end up being decided in a battle with two of the fastest drivers all season long. Kyle Busch looked to have the fastest car of the four championship contenders as the third stage began. This, however, prompted his rivals to try an alternate strategy. Instead of pitting just once in the final segment like Kyle, Truex, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick would switch to a two-stop race. Once Busch pitted many laps later, he was behind his rivals and hoping that the race would run green so that he could get back ahead.
However, when Kurt Busch spun his #41 Ford at turn three, the caution would come out and would change the shape of the race. With just over thirty laps to go, all would pit for fresh tyres at once; meaning that Truex and Harvick would restart at the front, with Busch slightly further behind.
Truex would build a decent gap in the lead of the race for the first half of the final thirty laps, but as the laps ticked down, Kyle Busch was bringing himself back into contention. He managed to breeze past Kevin Harvick to take second place and then started running down Truex for the race lead and the championship victory.
Busch managed to get within a second of the #78 car, but he couldn’t quite complete the pass. Both would try numerous lines to negotiate the Homestead-Miami Speedway, with Truex finding great speed right up next to the outside wall to maintain the lead. The tension was palpable as all eyes fixated on the lead two to see whether Busch could find a way by, but in the final five laps, he started to lose ground.
Martin Truex Jr’s 2017 season gave him seven race wins en-route to qualifying for the championship showdown. At the end of lap 267 in Miami, he earned his eighth win of the year. When he crossed the line, he sealed his first ever NASCAR Cup Series championship; the culmination of many years of hard work, hard times and hard racing.
Despite uncertain times in his racing career where his future was in doubt, whilst also helping his girlfriend Sherry Pollex in her ongoing battle with cancer, Truex persevered and accomplished his dream; emerging from his #78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry bathed in sweat and tears, but most importantly, as a champion.
“It’s just overwhelming,” said a visibly emotional Truex post-race, “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that couldn’t run 20th, to be here, I never thought this day would come and to be here is so unbelievable.”
There’s no question that Kyle Busch gave it absolutely everything he had in the final race of the season. However, he was just missing the final piece of the puzzle that would get him just one more position to usurp Truex and to take his second championship. Instead, he’d have to settle for second in the race and the title; but the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing team put in a sterling effort in the race and throughout the year to put themselves in contention until the last gasp.
Kyle Larson won the first two stages of the race in the #42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. At the end of the race, he seemed to have the fastest car once again. He ran down the two leaders and started to attack Kyle Busch for second place, but in the end, he’d remain in third place; a fantastic position to end the season in after a difficult playoff run that saw him eliminated from the title hunt through no real fault of his own.
Kevin Harvick ran with his title rivals for much of the race, but he never really seemed to have the pace in the #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to lead the quartet. He would finish the race in a solid fourth place. Whilst that wasn’t enough to take the title, he and the #4 team can be immensely proud to have run so well in the first year since switching to Ford as a manufacturer. Fellow Ford driver and title contender Brad Keselowski similarly ran strong all-race but didn’t have enough to fight the Toyota pair. He would come home in seventh place, with Chase Elliott and Joey Logano separating Harvick and Keselowski in positions five and six respectively.
Matt Kenseth would end what is potentially his final full-time NASCAR Cup Series campaign with an eighth-place finish in the #20 JGR Toyota. If this is the end of his career, he’ll leave with his head held high after a fantastic end to the season which also included a highly emotional race win at the penultimate race at Phoenix. Kenseth’s team-mate Denny Hamlin and the #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon would complete the top ten.
Further back, Dale Earnhardt Jr would take twenty-fifth in his final race before retirement. When he rolled off pit-road to start the race, he was met with a great reception from all the teams on the pit-wall who stood to see him off on his final start. He ran solidly all race until he hit the wall late, relegating him to his finishing position in the mid-pack. Nevertheless, he got out of his #88 Chevrolet feeling emotional as his time was up but excited for what the future holds with his wife Amy and their unborn child.
Danica Patrick‘s final race of her full-time racing career didn’t end in the way that she would’ve hoped. Her #10 Stewart-Haas Ford suffered a tyre blowout mid-race that put her hard into the outside wall at turn one. She would then be collected by the #5 of Kasey Kahne, with the resulting damage being too much for her to continue. She would be classified in thirty-seventh place and will be hoping that her final NASCAR Cup Series race, the Daytona 500 in February, will yield a much better result so that she can end her time in stock car racing on a high before heading to the Indianapolis 500 to cap off her racing career.
After thirty-six races and thousands of miles of racing, Martin Truex Jr and Furniture Row Racing finally, complete their journey from underdogs to champions. The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been incredible and now begins the agonising ninety-one day wait for it all to begin again at the 2018 Daytona 500 in February.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Ford EcoBoost 400 – Race results:
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