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MENCS: Truex dominates at California

(MRN) Martin Truex Junior returned to his 2017 championship form on Sunday with a dominating victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The Furniture Row Racing driver started from the pole, swept the first two stages and led a race-high 125 laps en route to his sixteenth Cup Series win and first this year in defense of his title. Truex passed Kyle Busch for his final lead thirty-two laps from the finish and kept the Number-78 Toyota in front the rest of the way, beating runner-up Kyle Larson to the finish by more than eleven seconds. Busch took third place with Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano completing the top five. For Truex, the win caps a steady recovery after a disappointing eighteenth-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500. Since then, he’s had finishes of fifth in Atlanta, fourth in Las Vegas, fifth in Phoenix and now his first victory at A-C-S. It’s rare for pole winners to win Cup Series races on the two-mile Southern California oval. Truex is just the third to do it since the track first hosted NASCAR in 1997, joining Jimmie Johnson (2008) and Larson last year.

Truex’s month-long resurgence has carried him to the top of the Monster Energy Series standings heading into the first short-track race of the season next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. He enjoys a nine-point lead over Busch and is nineteen ahead of Logano, who also won Saturday’s X-finity Series race in dominating fashion. In fact, Truex and Logano combined to lead 264 of the 350 laps possible in the two races.

Sunday’s Cup Series race included sixteen lead changes among just seven drivers. There were five cautions for 21 laps.

NASCAR CUP SERIES

Top 10 Finishers in the Auto Club 400

DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED

1. Martin Truex Jr. (Pole) 125

2. Kyle Larson (3) —

3. Kyle Busch (2) 62

4. Brad Keselowski (11) —

5. Joey Logano (6) 9

6. Denny Hamlin (25) 1

7. Erik Jones (4) —

8. Ryan Blaney (8) —

9. Jimmie Johnson (33) —

10. Austin Dillon (5) —

RACE NOTES …

Kevin Harvick’s hopes of a fourth straight victory were dashed on Sunday when he tangled with Kyle Larson early in the Auto Club 400. The contact damaged Harvick’s Number-4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and though he was running at the finish, the 2014 champion placed thirty-fifth in the thirty-seven-car field. He was nine laps down to winner Martin Truex Junior. The last Monster Energy Series driver to post four straight wins was Jimmie Johnson in 2007. He finished a season-best ninth in Sunday’s race on what he considers his home track in Fontana, California – one of just ten drivers on the lead lap at the end of the day.

NASCAR CUP SERIES Unofficial Point Standings After 5 Races

DRIVER POINTS BEHIND LEADER

1. Martin Truex Jr. 216 —-

2. Kyle Busch 207 -9

3. Joey Logano 197 -19

4. Brad Keselowski 183 -33

5. Ryan Blaney 181 -35

6. Denny Hamlin 176 -40

7. Kyle Larson 174 -42

8. Kevin Harvick 170 -46

9. Clint Bowyer 155 -61

10. Aric Almirola 148 -68

TRACK FACTS …

With Sunday’s win, it could be said that Martin Truex Junior is actually ahead of the early-season pace he set a year ago en route to the Monster Energy Series championship. In 2017, Truex had one victory through the first five races and was third in the regular-season point standings. In 2018, he has one victory through the first five races but is first in the point standings, two spots higher than he was at this juncture last season. Considering how dominant Truex was over the course of the 2017 campaign, this news does not bode well for the competition moving forward.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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