Before Sunday, the last time Martin Truex Jr. was in victory lane … he was celebrating his first Cup championship.
That sounds like a long time but it’s only been, what, five races? Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team captured the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title last November with a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The victory capped an eight-win, can’t-touch-this season for the team from Denver, Colo.
Sunday Truex looked every bit the defending series champion, winning the first two stages in the Auto Club 400 before waltzing his way to an impressive victory. Second place was nearly 12 seconds behind.
It was a sound thrashing. A sign of things to come perhaps?
• It was the first Cup win of the season for the Toyota folks, and No. 112 since they came aboard the series in ’07. A year ago, their teams won 16 times, most of anyone. Same thing the year before that one, too.
All three automakers now have at least one win in the series this season – but Ford’s been the frontrunner so far, thanks to Kevin Harvick and his three victories.
• Speaking of Harvick, an early-race crash ended the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s bid for a fourth consecutive victory. A rare misstep by the 2014 champ.
The incident, which occurred when Harvick and Kyle Larson made contact on the backstretch, took place only 38 laps into the 200-lap race. Why race as if it’s the last lap? There were no stage points to be had at that point.
The damage to Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet wasn’t significant enough to keep him from racing his way to a runner-up finish. Harvick wasn’t as fortunate; while his team was able to make repairs to the No. 4 entry, Harvick finished 35th, nine laps down.
• Seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson finished ninth, his first top-10 of the year. It was his first top-10 since the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last October, actually.
He’s No. 2 in points among Hendrick Motorsports drivers – but only 18th overall. Alex Bowman is 16th, tops for the four-team organization that includes William Byron and Chase Elliott.
Bowman, Byron and Elliott have led laps this year (granted not a great deal of them). Johnson has not. The last time he was out front? Martinsville last fall. It’s a long season though …
• With NASCAR being on the west coast for the past three weeks, I’m surprised there’s been no talk (announcement) concerning the Monster Energy premier series entitlement agreement.
The current sponsorship agreement, which took effect last year, is scheduled to run through the 2019 season. Monster officials have twice asked for, and been granted, extensions pertaining to the company’s renewal decision.