HOMESTEAD, Fla. — A decade ago, Furniture Row Racing broke into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as a team looking simply to find their way, struggling to qualify for races and barely scraping by.
Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. immortalized the Colorado-based squad and placed them at the pinnacle of the sport after 12 years of immeasurable hard work, winning the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to score his — and the team’s — first-ever Cup Series championship.
Truex outran Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski to secure the crown, adding to a career season with his personal-best and series-leading eighth win of the year after leading 78 of 267 laps in the title-deciding race.
The 37-year-old Mayetta, N.J. native got to the front of the field with 51 to go and never gave up control after that, holding off a furious charge from Busch in the final laps and becoming the fourth-straight driver to secure the title by winning the final race of the year.
It all added up to an emotional celebration on the championship stage after a season in which Truex and Furniture Row endured adversity and heartbreak on their road to the ultimate triumph.
“I can’t believe it. I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid and I just never gave up on the dream,” said Truex. “This is proof that you can never give up on your dreams, no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through in life.”
“What can I say about this team? Cole Pearn, Jazzy, all the road guys, the guys in Denver – they work their guts out for me. This is unbelievable; it’s truly a dream come true. I don’t even know. I couldn’t even talk on the (cool-down) laps. I’m just really thankful and really grateful to be here and accomplish this. I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that I would have gotten this far. We’re going to party it up tonight.”
Truex becomes the 32nd different champion in the history of NASCAR’s premier series, as well as the first ever titlist born in the Garden State.
He also set a record by posting the best average finish in the history of NASCAR’s 10-race playoffs, a staggering mark of 4.3 that bested Carl Edwards’ 2011 playoff average of 4.9.
But Sunday night was all about one race, and Truex drove the most perfect laps of his career when they mattered most.
“We just never gave up all day long,” Truex said. “We didn’t have the best car. I don’t know how we won that thing. I never give up. I dug deep. I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have today and with 20 to go I thought I was done – they were all better than me on the long run all day long.”
“I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen.”
The battle for the championship truly began with 70 laps to go, when Keselowski short-pitted on a two-stop to the finish strategy that drew Truex and Harvick down with him on a similar plan.
Meanwhile, Busch stayed out in an effort to only make one pit stop to the finish.
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