(MRN) Martin Truex Junior continued his post-season domination of mile-and-a-half ovals on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, holding off a late charge from Kyle Busch to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 and claim his first Monster Energy Series championship. Truex won four of the five playoff races run on intermediate-sized ovals this fall including yesterday’s season finale, in which there was little drama until the closing laps. All qualifiers in The Championship Four – Truex, Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski – ran consistently in the top five for much of the day and all came away with top-ten finishes.
Down the stretch, Busch drove past Harvick to take second place and then set his sights on Truex, who kept his rival in the rear-view mirror and delivered Furniture Row Racing’s first Cup Series title.
The margin of victory over Busch was sixty-eight one-hundredths of a second.
Kyle Larson led a race-high 145 laps and ran third with Harvick and Chase Elliott completing the top five. Keselowski came home in seventh place.
Pole winner Denny Hamlin failed to lead a lap and placed ninth.
Truex started alongside Hamlin on the front row and quickly put the field behind him at the drop of the green flag – leading four times for seventy-eight laps, matching his car number.
NASCAR CUP SERIES
Top 10 Finishers in the Ford EcoBoost 400
DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED
1. Martin Truex Jr. (2) 78
2. Kyle Busch (3) 43
3. Kyle Larson (7) 145
4. Kevin Harvick (9) —
5. Chase Elliott (18) —
6. Joey Logano (19) —
7. Brad Keselowski (5) 1
8. Matt Kenseth (4) —
9. Denny Hamlin (Pole) —
10. Ryan Newman (21) —
RACE NOTES …
Dale Earnhardt Junior, who is now officially retired as a Cup Series driver, ran his final race Sunday and placed twenty-fifth among thirty-nine entries. He was running at the finish, three laps down to race winner Martin Truex Junior. Alex Bowman will take over the Number-88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2018 … Matt Kenseth announced earlier this month that he’s stepping away from the sport next season – though refusing to use the “R” word, saying instead that he was simply looking forward to some time off. Sunday, Kenseth – the 2003 Cup Series champion – drove his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a respectable eighth-place finish in what could be his final start.
2017 PLAYOFFS Final Standings Championship Round
1. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row) 5,040 Points
2. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) 5,035 (-5)
3. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas) 5,033 (-7)
4. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) 5,030 (-10)
Inside the Playoffs
Martin Truex Junior put the exclamation mark on a superb season Sunday with his championship drive at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Furniture Row Racing driver blew through the regular season with four wins and eighteen stage victories – earning the Number-1 seed and building a mountain of playoff bonus points that virtually assured him of arriving in South Florida with the opportunity to race for a championship. He won four of the ten playoff races – including Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 – and finished fifth or better in five of the six races he didn’t win … Truex has resided at the top of the Cup Series point standings since mid-July and his final margin over championship runner-up Kyle Busch (Number-3 seed) is five points … Sixth-seeded Kevin Harvick finished third in the final standings with fourth-seeded Brad Keselowski ending the year in fourth place among title contenders … Joey Logano, Keselowski’s teammate at Team Penske, topped the non-title contenders with 930 points this year that nets him 17th place in the final standings.