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Truex Takes Center Stage in Cup Series with Dominant Performances in 2017

Martin Truex Jr. is one point behind leader Kyle Larson in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points this season, but no one has dominated the new stage racing format like Truex.

That’s because when Truex is good in 2017, he’s out of this world.

Truex has 13 stage wins this season in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, more than triple the amount of his closest pursuer in that category, Kyle Busch, who has four. Truex also has amassed 28 playoff points that he’ll carry to the start of the Playoffs in September, 12 more than that category’s runner-up, defending series champion Jimmie Johnson.

That dominance was on display again last Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway when Truex led all three stages for his third victory of the season. Truex is the only driver to sweep all stages of a race this season, a feat he also pulled off in March at Las Vegas.

“Well, we knew coming into the season they were going to be important, so I think everybody's goal coming into this year was to try to get as many as possible,” Truex said of stage points. “I think for us as a team, if you look at last year and the laps we led and the things we were able to do, we didn't win as many races as we should have, but we led a lot of laps, and I feel like we would have got a lot of stage points last year if they were available, but they weren't. 

“So it kind of played into our wheelhouse a little bit, just kind of played into what we've been doing the last couple years.”

New Jersey native Truex, 37, enters the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 as a favorite for victory in the midst of a breakthrough season. His previous best finish at IMS was fourth in 2015, and he finished eighth last season.

This year, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn have formed one of the most dynamic duos in NASCAR in their third season working together.

There are two unique facts about the work of Pearn and Furniture Row Racing compared to most of their rivals in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage.

First, Ontario native Pearn is the first Canadian native to serve as a Cup Series crew chief on a regular basis.

Second, Furniture Row Racing is based in Denver, 1,560 miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, where nearly every other major NASCAR team is headquartered.

That distance from the sport’s epicenter in Charlotte breeds a unique camaraderie for Furniture Row’s crew. But it adds a logistical hurdle, as Furniture Row must have its transporter packed with its cars and equipment a day earlier than nearly all other teams for the long journey to races, most of which are based in the Eastern time zone.

Furniture Row’s technical partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing helps Pearn and his crew accelerate their timetables for car preparation. But with a long haul ahead to the race, sometimes there’s no substitute for long, long hours.

“We have a great bunch,” Truex said. “I can't tell you how good our guys are at just making sure they do all the things right. Our guys, they work so hard. They're perfectionists, really. I think sometimes Cole makes them burn a little midnight oil to get the cars where he wants them, to get things the way he likes it, and sometimes they work a little more than they expected to. But they all do a great job, and they're willing to put in the hours, and right now it's showing up.

“I appreciate all of them. They do an amazing job. It's pretty awesome to see, and it's definitely cool doing it in Denver out there all by ourselves. I think our truck leaves probably a day or two before everybody else's most times. Short turnarounds. They have to work hard, work long nights, and hard work pays off.”

Larson finished second behind Truex last Saturday night in Kentucky, only getting a shot at winning when a late caution period evaporated Truex’s 15-second lead. Larson kept the overall points lead with his runner-up result, but he and every other driver in the Cup Series garage see Truex as the driver to beat right now.

“Wish we could have competed with Martin, but he was obviously extremely fast today,” Larson said. “We all have some work to do to keep up with him.”

The Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 will start at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 23, featuring all of the stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for all 2017 IMS events, including the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 and Lilly Diabetes 250 on July 21-23, and for more information on all events.

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Truex Jr.
 
Truex Takes Center Stage in Cup Series with Dominant Performances in 2017
Truex has 13 stage wins this season in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, more than triple the amount of his closest pursuer in that category, Kyle Busch, who has four. Truex also has amassed 28 playoff points that he’ll carry to the start of the Playoffs in September, 12 more than that category’s runner-up, defending series champion Jimmie Johnson.
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