By Jared Turner
Truex, Furniture Row Are For Real
If there was still any doubt in anyone’s mind about whether Martin Truex Jr. and his unheralded Furniture Row Racing team are legitimate contenders for the 2015 Sprint Cup championship, Sunday’s Axalta We Paint Winners 400 should have removed it. As he has all season, Truex ran near front and challenged for the win – only this time he finished the job. Now with a victory to his credit, Truex is locked in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and has compiled an amazing 13 top-10 finishes in the season’s first 14 events. Those are stellar numbers, no matter how you slice it.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Team Are Resilient
Jimmie Johnson’s Sunday got off to a rough start when his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet failed technical inspection three times. Johnson’s day got even worse once the race started when he suffered a tire failure near the midway point of the 160-lap event. But in true Jimmie Johnson fashion, the six-time champion battled back into contention, and by the end of the race was in position to fight for his fourth career win at Pocono. While Johnson didn’t win, his third-place finish marked his seventh finish of third or better in the past eight races. Those are championship-type numbers.
Kevin Harvick Is First At Finishing Second
Arguably the top-performing driver of the 2015 season, reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick came home a strong second at Pocono to record his eighth runner-up finish in 14 starts this year. Eight runner-up finishes? Are you kidding me? If second-place really is the first loser, as they say, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has to be getting tired of this. Interestingly, Harvick’s season seems to be mirroring 2014 when he likewise picked up two early wins before hitting a drought. He went on to win three races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and the championship, however, so hope springs eternal for the driver whose nickname is “Happy.”
Danica Patrick Can’t Catch A Break
In contention for a strong, top-10 finish throughout much of the race at Pocono, Danica Patrick saw it all come to a disappointing end with 26 laps to go when her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet hit the wall on the exit of Turn 3. The contact didn’t cause major damage to the car but resulted in a tire coming apart – which sent her into the wall, again, and harder. Another tire failure a few laps later sent Patrick sliding off Turn 3 toward pit road. She finished seven laps down in 37th, making it the sixth consecutive race in which the Sprint Cup Series’ only female driver has finished 15th or worse.
Truex Is Popular Among His Peers
It has been quite awhile – perhaps even years – since a victory was as popular among one’s fellow drivers as the one Martin Truex Jr. captured in Sunday’s Axalta We Paint Winners 400 at Pocono Raceway. One of the nicest drivers in the Sprint Cup garage, Truex experienced a tumultuous 2014 both on and off the track as his Furniture Row Racing team struggled mightily while his longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, underwent treatments for ovarian cancer. While Truex and the team have turned a corner in 2015, Pollex continues to undergo treatments – and tweeted as much from Victory Lane at Pocono where emotions ran high and many drivers came by to share in the moment.