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Monday Racing Roundup: Dixon Wins on Fast Saturday Night in Texas

Scott Dixon made his victory in Saturday’s Firestone 600 look easy, though the three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion said it was one of the most hotly-contested and unpredictable in recent memory at Texas Motor Speedway.

Dixon led 97 of the 248 laps in the No. 9 Energizer EcoAdvanced Chevrolet to earn his second victory of the Verizon IndyCar Series season and his second at Texas Motor Speedway in the fast-paced race on the 1.455-mile, high-banked oval.

The 191.940 mph average speed set a track race record, which was aided by a lone caution for debris.

Chip Ganassi Racing Teams teammate Tony Kanaan finished 7.8000 seconds behind in the No. 10 NTT Group Chevrolet. Helio Castroneves, who has won four times on the 1.455-mile, high-banked oval, finished third in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet.

It was the 99th Indy car victory for team owner Chip Ganassi, and his longest-tenured driver picked up his 37th Indy car win. Dixon, who also won at Long Beach in mid-April, stretched his streak to 10 years with multiple wins.

“It’s never easy. Even toward the second-to-last stint we were just trying to make changes to the car,” said Dixon, who grabbed the lead in a pit stop exchange on Lap 194 and led all but one lap over the distance. 

“It didn’t start awfully good because we had a lot of understeer in the car, but once we got the balance right the car was basically on rails. With the pit stop exchange we got the lead and then the car was just very good in traffic and were able to keep the speed up. I knew once we got the balance right we could get up there and duel with (Kanaan) to the end.

“This racing is great and you’ve got to give Firestone a lot of credit. They give us a tire that is very durable and safe.”

There were 14 lead changes among nine drivers.

Dixon also won at the superspeedway on June 7, 2008 -- one of his six victories on the way to his second Verizon IndyCar Series championship. He is third in the standings through nine of 16 races – 43 points behind front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya heading to the June 14 Honda Indy Toronto, where he swept a doubleheader on the street circuit in 2013.

Kanaan, who earned his 121st Indy car top-five finish, led 57 laps mid-race.

"One-two for the team, I'm happy," said Kanaan, who won at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12, 2004, and returned in October to celebrate his series championship. “It was a great race.”

Montoya increased his points advantage to 35 over Team Penske teammate Will Power with a fourth-place finish. Marco Andretti, who started 11th in the No. 27 Snapple Honda for Andretti Autosport, placed fifth for his third consecutive top five. Power, the pole sitter, led seven laps but faded to 13th in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Truex Jr. earns a popular win at Pocono

Martin Truex Jr. knew that his third career victory would come – eventually.

Enjoying easily the finest season of his NASCAR career, Truex raced to a convincing win in Sunday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400, leading 97 of 160 laps, including the final 27 at Pocono Raceway.

His victory marked the third consecutive Sprint Cup race in which Truex led the most laps. He’d led 131 laps at both Charlotte and Dover, only to come home fifth and sixth in the last two weeks.

"We finally got it," said Truex, who had registered top-10 finishes in 12 of the first 13 races this season. "We've had a great season. We have had everything it has taken to win races (and) we just hadn’t got it done.

"This team deserves to win and I’ve known that all year long. Throughout my career I’ve kind of gotten used to disappointment, honestly, and I’ve learned to deal with those days where it didn’t go your way, even though you didn’t do anything wrong."

The victory ended Truex’s 69-race winless skid. A long time coming, it was popular in the garage – even with his fiercest rivals – for multiple reasons.

Truex drives for Furniture Row Racing, a bit of an outlier in the racing world as a single-car team based in Denver. Sunday’s Sprint Cup victory was the second ever for Furniture Row and owner Barney Visser, who also won at Darlington with driver Regan Smith in the 2011 Southern 500.

After winning consecutive NASCAR XFINITY Series titles, Truex, 34, had bounced around from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Michael Waltrip Racing, where it looked like he might have found a home. Then came the second Richmond race of 2013 in which Truex had seemingly raced his way into the Chase – only to have his team penalized out of the picture. He then lost his ride when MWR was compelled to consolidate.

Prior to Sunday, he’d managed only two Sprint Cup victories -- at Dover in 2007 and Sonoma in 2013.

But even his on-track travails paled in comparison to those of his long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who battled cancer in 2014 – a year in which Truex managed to lead only one lap all season. If that wasn’t enough, Truex lost his grandmother this week.

It was Sherry who told Truex to have faith and dig deep after the frustration of 2013 and that everything would work out.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race on July 26 at IMS in the Crown Royal presents “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard. 

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