LONG POND, Pa. — Jeff Gordon found only greatness, not boredom, in Martin Truex Jr.’s record run at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
In the broadcast booth Sunday, the retired four-time NASCAR champion said Truex’s dominant feat the previous weekend should be rewarded, not decried as bad for the sport because of the way the Furniture Row Racing driver cruised against no true competition in the Coca-Cola 600.
Truex’s record romp was remarkable — he led 392 of the 400 laps, set a Sprint Cup record for miles led in a race with 588, and his 160.655 mph run in the No. 78 Toyota made the race the fastest in Coke history.
Let the critics moan.
Truex was too busy celebrating his career renaissance.
“Definitely a great week,” he said. “One of the best I’ve ever had.”
Even better for Truex, he was headed to Pocono Raceway, site of his lone victory in 2015. Truex dominated off late restarts down the stretch to snap a 69-race winless streak last June and earn a berth in the Chase.
“I think typically past experience at a track is definitely a good thing,” Truex said.
Truex and his Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team had to wait one more day to aim for a repeat. Rain washed out Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, and it will now run at 10 a.m. MDT on Monday. Brad Keselowski is on the pole and Truex starts 17th in Pocono’s first Monday race since 2009. The 2012 rain-shortened race at Pocono was marred by lightning strikes that killed one fan and injured nine others.
This was the first postponed race of the season and the ninth since 2011.
Truex’s win in Charlotte earned him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship — a spot he parlayed last year into the four-driver field in the finale to race for the title.
Truex has proved this season that his success was no fluke. His 809 laps led through the first 13 races are 242 more than his total all of last season and his two top-five finishes and six top-10s aren’t far removed from his 2015 pace.
One a middling driver for two other teams, Truex has watched his career blossom at single-car operation Furniture Row.
“I feel like I’m a better driver than I’ve ever been,” he said. “But you (need) a great team and all the things around you it takes to be competitive at this level against these drivers against these teams. You’ve got to have it all.”
The June 2015 Pocono race was replayed on Fox Sports 1 — spoiler alert, Truex won — on Sunday and showed him breaking through for his first Sprint Cup victory in two years.
The win was particularly emotional for Truex. He slapped the top of the No. 78, thrust his right fist toward the sky and bounded straight into his girlfriend’s arms. He hugged and kissed Sherry Pollex and lifted her into the air, a needed celebration for the couple as she fought ovarian cancer.
Pollex, diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in August 2014, is in remission.
“I went through a lot,” Truex said. “We went through a lot.”
Truex is a hunting buddy with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his easygoing personality has made him a popular driver in the garage. Rival drivers, owners, crew members popped by for high-fives and congratulatory greetings on pit road last year.
After Charlotte, it was even more texts and tweets to read after claiming his little slice of history.
“I still just can’t believe how many laps we led, and just the miles,” he said. “Just thinking about all the greats that have come and gone through NASCAR — all of our heroes, my heroes — to think that I’ve led more laps in a race than anyone ever has or more miles is just a really cool thing for me.”
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