Hollywood Casino 400: Martin Truex Jr. roars to win

By Amanda Vincent, The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 22, 2017 at 10:02 PM
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Martin Truex Jr. bookended the second round of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his seventh win of the season Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

"Excited to get another one here at Kansas," Truex said. "This feels really awesome. It's really Furniture Row's home track. It just feels really good to finally get -- to finally get another one here. We got that one in the spring after so many heartbreaks, and then, today it looked like it wasn't going to happen and we just persevered."

Kurt Busch finished second, Ryan Blaney was third, Chase Elliott fourth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.

"I just feel like I'm on razorblades here," Busch said. "I really wanted that one bad. At the end, I had the sticker tires. As I'm warming them up, they weren't grabbing in the back. I knew that I wasn't going to get the jump that I needed. I tried to play middle of the ground. Early in the race, with scuffs from qualifying, I brushed the fence. Kansas -- I don't know what it is about this place."

Truex also was up front at the beginning of the race, starting on the pole and leading the first 35 laps before a restart penalty. He made his way from the back to the front twice in the first two 80-lap stages of the 267-lap race, also falling to the back because of an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on Lap 91.

"Just couldn't believe some of the things that were happening and thought there was no way that we were going to win that race at some point," Truex said. "That first restart violation really caught me by surprise and that hurt, but that wasn't the last blow we had to take. There was the loose wheel we had to pit for under green and getting a lap down and being able to stay out through that last stage and get that lap back was crucial; without that, we didn't have a shot.

"Then, we got back mid-pack and had a couple really good restarts to get some track position, and then really fought the car through that part of the race and had to make some big adjustments. And I felt like at the end, we got dialed in pretty good. I'm pretty happy with that."

Truex took his final lead of the race with just over 50 laps remaining.

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick dominated the race between Truex's two stints up front, including a Busch win of the opening stage. Hamlin won the second stage through a pit strategy of staying out when the yellow flag waved with four laps remaining in stage two.

After pit stops, Harvick was up front for the restart at the beginning of the final stage. Kyle Busch retook the lead on a restart just past lap 200, giving way to Truex a few laps later.

Busch and Harvick were snake-bitten by an ill-timed 10th and final yellow flag during a cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 235. Both had already pitted under green and gone a lap down. They took the wave-around during the caution to get back on the lead lap.

Brad Keselowski, who, like Truex, was already locked into the third round, incurred a pit-road speeding penalty during the caution.

Several drivers not already with positions secured in the next round, had trouble throughout the race.

More than a dozen cars were collected in a crash on a Lap 198 restart that began with an Erik Jones spin. Among those involved included playoff drivers Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray. Kenseth was parked for the rest of the race, because too many members worked on the car when it was under the crash-repair clock.

"I don't know what any of the rules are," Kenseth said. "Seems like we got a lot of stuff that kind of gets, you know, changed so often. I honestly can't keep up with it. My head kind of spins from putting lug nuts out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you're not allowed to race anymore. I just don't get it to be honest with you. I really don't have a lot good to say right now. I'm more than disappointed.

"I'm just gonna say thanks to DeWalt. They've been a sponsor of mine off and on for 20 years. Awesome guys, there. They deserve better than this. We showed some flashes of brilliance this season, been off and on, been fast at times, had great pit stops at times, just haven't been able to put it all together like a championship team needs to. Unfortunately, this is an example of that. I hope that I can do a better job, here, the next four weeks and, hopefully, go get a win."

The race was red-flagged for track cleanup from the wreck that saw Jones' car get airborne after hard, head-on contact with the wall.

Ricky Stenhouse hit the wall with just under 100 laps remaining. Another playoff driver, Kyle Larson, retired from the race earlier, experiencing the first engine failure of his career on Lap 77.

Two Jimmie Johnson spins around Lap 190 resulted in two yellow flags.

Still, Johnson advanced to the next round of the playoffs. Drivers eliminated at Kansas were Larson, Kenseth, Stenhouse and McMurray.

NOTES: James "Jim" Watson, a travel fabricator for Furniture Row Racing, passed away after having a heart attack Saturday night. The 55-year-old was with the team at Kansas Speedway on Friday and Saturday. ... Martin Truex Jr. won at Kansas Speedway in May. ... Kevin Harvick won last year's Hollywood Casino 400. ... Ryan Blaney started in the back after posting the third fastest lap in the last round of qualifying Friday, because his car failed post-qualifying inspection. ... Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Blaney and Austin Dillon were among the top 10 finishers of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kansas on Saturday (Blaney third and Dillon sixth). ... Daniel Hemric was on standby for Paul Menard at Kansas, as Menard and his wife await the birth of their second child. ... Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers with three Kansas Speedway wins, tying him with Jeff Gordon for most all-time wins at the track. ... Sunday's race was the 500th career Cup Series start for Kasey Kahne and the 100th for Matt DiBenedetto.

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