Martin Truex Jr.’s win in Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway was a means to an end.
After meaning to win – and coming close several times to actually doing so – at the 1.5-mile track over the last few years, Truex finally sealed the deal. He led a race-high 104 of 267 laps – including the final 19 laps – to earn his second win of 2017.
In a way, it was vindication for falling short at Kansas one year ago in the spring race, where he dominated by leading a race-high 172 laps and appeared headed to a win – only to endure a broken bolt that forced him back to pit road and end up 14th.
Saturday night’s win under the lights marked the fifth time Truex has finished in the top-5 at Kansas, including runner-up finishes in both 2012 races, as well as fourth-place finishes in spring 2013 and fall 2014.
But all that – in addition to last year’s disappointing finish – is all in the past. He’s finally kicked the Kansas curse.
“I can’t even tell you,” Truex said when asked how he felt after the win. “It feels amazing to be here. It’s been a long time coming to this racetrack for sure.
“The close calls, the laps led, the heartbreaks that we’ve been through here. Definitely proud tonight to finally cross that checkered flag first and bring it home for the guys.”
To finally win at a place that had vexed him so many times – some might even call it being robbed for coming up short in several instances – was yet another reason Truex said Saturday’s win was more meaningful than some of his other NASCAR Cup triumphs.
“It does, I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “You know, as a racer, you don’t forget. You don’t forget those days that ones got away or you screwed up and gave one away or anything like that.
“You never forget those things. They always stick with you. Definitely last year was probably the biggest heart breaker to have the craziest thing happen that you could ever imagine, an eight-second lead just gone and … it was so heartbreaking.
“It’s definitely sweet redemption tonight. Definitely feels good to be here, and I feel like it’s been a long time coming, and we definitely earned it, that’s for sure.”
But for a few moments late in the race, Truex wondered if maybe the win would once again be taken away from him by none other than his teammate, Erik Jones.
Jones spun on Lap 260 – seven laps from the scheduled finish – after making contact with Ty Dillon’s Chevrolet. While Truex maintained the lead on the ensuing restart and held on for the final two laps, he wondered if Jones’ spin would be yet another downfall for himself at Kansas.
“Yeah, I’m like, damn, Erik, come on now, your teammate is leading the race, don’t be causing cautions,” Truex said. “I’ve been in that boat before. Lucky for Erik, I didn’t screw up the last couple restarts.”
But no matter what, Truex – who remains in second place in the NASCAR Cup standings behind Kyle Larson after his win in Kansas – was a man bound and determined to avenge the past and finally achieve his destiny at a track that vexed him almost as much as the Wizard of Oz vexed Dorothy.
“You know, tonight we did everything right,” Truex said. “When the pressure was on, when the money was on the line, we made the right moves, and everything worked out.”