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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Martin Truex Jr. celebrates after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, N.Y., his fourth win of the season.

Monday, August 07, 2017 1:00 am

Truex's gamble with fuel pays off

Benefits when leaders forced to pit late

JOHN KEKIS | Associated Press

Top 5

Finishers

1. Martin Truex Jr Toyota

2. Matt Kenseth Toyota

3. Daniel Suarez Toyota

4. Denny Hamlin Toyota

5. Clint Bowyer Ford

Points

1. M. Truex 881

2. Ky. Busch 765

3. K. Larson 759

4. K. Harvick 746

5. D. Hamlin 687

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – One by one they passed him as the laps dwindled at Watkins Glen International, and Martin Truex Jr. stuck to the plan. In the end, he was the one laughing in victory lane.

Truex held off Matt Kenseth on the final lap and won the NASCAR Cup race Sunday at The Glen, stretching his fuel to the triumphant end. It was the second road course victory of his career.

“I've wanted to win here for a long time. This is a big one for our team,” Truex said. “I never ran 100 percent because I didn't have to. I ran hard enough (on the last lap) to just try to manage that gap.”

Truex gained the lead when Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Ford and Ryan Blaney in the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers were forced to pit in the final three laps.

“It's excruciating to go that slow here and try to save that much fuel,” Truex said. “The toughest part, really, was just watching the No. 2 pass and go on, and then watching the No. 21 pass and go on. It's like, 'All right, if they don't run out of gas, we're going to look really dumb.' Fortunately, it worked out for us.”

Trailing by 3 seconds after saving fuel for several laps, Truex assumed the lead in his No. 78 Toyota when Blaney ducked into the pits as the white flag was about to fly.

Despite a bobble and locking the brakes as Kenseth challenged on the last lap, Truex won for the fourth time this season.

“He was so fast, I still couldn't get to him,” said Kenseth, who maintained his slim points lead over Clint Bowyer for the final slot in the playoffs with four races to go before the cutoff. “I was racing as hard as I could, trying to make as many passes as I could.”

Daniel Suarez was third, the best finish of his rookie season, followed by Denny Hamlin and Bowyer.

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch was seventh. Busch's No. 18 Toyota suffered damage just past the midpoint when he made contact with Keselowski.

Truex boosted his playoff points total to a whopping 34, nearly double that of second-place Jimmie Johnson (18) as his best season shows no signs of tailing off.

“I feel like with the way we run, coupled with the bonus points, we should be a lock for (the season finale at) Homestead,” Truex said. “But at the same time, this is racing and anything can happen.”

Truex passed Bowyer for second on lap 61 and caught Keselowski three laps later, passing him on the final turn of lap 64. But with fuel mileage coming into play, Truex slowed, dropping back as Keselowski and Blaney drove past.