Martin Truex Jr. says suspension of tire changers is ‘a big impact’ to his team

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LONG POND, Pa. — Points leader Martin Truex Jr. says he’s hopeful that a crash with Kyle Busch and an incident between their teams don’t tarnish the relationship Furniture Row Racing has with Joe Gibbs Racing.

“It’s a tough situation for us to be in,’’ Truex said Friday night at Pocono Raceway. “There’s no doubt about that. I’m obviously not happy with how it all went down. I’m disappointed that I made a mistake and it kind of got us in this position. It is what it is. We’ll deal with it the best we can.’’

Furniture Row Racing is aligned with JGR and receives equipment and personnel as part of that deal. Furniture Row Racing’s pit crew members are Joe Gibbs Racing employees.

After Truex and Busch wrecked while racing for the lead last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Furniture Row Racing tire changers Chris Taylor and Lee Cunningham each had a confrontation with Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, in Furniture Row Racing’s pit box.

“Obviously you never want to see guys get in a confrontation,’’ Truex said. “I think it shows their passion for what they’re doing. It shows their passion for our team. Honestly, I didn’t see the incident. I literally left the race track and haven’t looked at anything all week. Just proud of our guys and we’ll get through it.’’

Joe Gibbs Racing announced this week that it was suspending Taylor and Cunningham three races each for their actions. Stevens was not punished.

“It’s a big impact when they’re two of the best out there,’’ Truex said of losing Taylor and Cunningham for races at Pocono, Watkins Glen and Michigan. “Our pit crew has been amazing this  year, putting us in position to win multiple races. Not making mistakes. Those two guys are unbelievable at what they do. We’re obviously at a disadvantage without them.’’

That’s led some to question JGR suspending the two pit crew members — instead of issuing some sort of internal penalty — since the action could hinder Truex. That, some argue, could help JGR as the playoffs loom.

Truex sought to downplay any rift between the teams.

“We’ve been working together for a year and a half plus and things have gone really well,’’ Truex said. “This is just a little bump in the road. Lot of good people involved, lot of smart people. We’ll get it all figured out. It’s not a big deal.’’

Truex also said he and Busch talked Monday. Both restarted on the front row. Previously, they had worked together to get into Turn 1 safely. With about 50 laps left, Busch and his team decided it was time to race. Truex was on the inside and got loose in Turn 1. He slid up and hit Busch. Both hit the SAFER barrier, ending their race.

“Things are fine,’’ Truex said of he and Busch. “It’s a racing deal. We raced really hard. We’ve restarted next to each other on the front row 15-plus times this year probably and never had an issue. It’s just one of those deals. We were both racing hard. We were both wanting to win that race. I made a mistake. I think he understands. We’ll get through it.’’

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Results, statistics from Ford EcoBoost 200 Truck season finale

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Chase Briscoe earned his first Camping World Truck Series victory in Friday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

And while finishing second is supposed to be the first loser, it wasn’t for Christopher Bell, whose runner-up showing clinched the 2017 Truck Series championship for him.

Click here for the full results from Friday’s race.

MORE: Christopher Bell wins Truck Series championship, Chase Briscoe earns first career Truck win

MORE: Here’s the final 2017 Camping World Truck Series driver standings

 

Here’s the final 2017 Camping World Truck Series driver standings

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Christopher Bell won the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in Friday’s Ford EcoBoost 200, with all four Championship 4 drivers finishing within four points of each other.

Bell finished with 4,035 points, 2016 Truck champ Johnny Sauter finished second in the standings with 4,034 points, rookie Austin Cindric finished third (4,032) and two-time series champ Matt Crafton finished fourth (4,031).

Click here for the final 2017 season driver standings.

MORE: Christopher Bell wins Truck Series championship, Chase Briscoe earns first career Truck win

MORE: Results, statistics from Ford EcoBoost 200 Truck season finale

Christopher Bell wins Truck title, Chase Briscoe earns first career series win

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The first champion of the NASCAR Championship Weekend was crowned Friday night as Christopher Bell earned his first Camping World Truck Series title.

Chase Briscoe won the race, the Ford EcoBoost 200, leading a race-high 77 laps in the 134-lap event, while Bell captured the championship by finishing second.

“It’s a dream come true,” Bell told FS1. “These trucks are so good and they pay so much attention to all the detail that goes into these things, and that’s what makes these Tundras so fast. I’m just speechless.”

MORE: Results, statistics from Ford EcoBoost 200 Truck season finale

MORE: Here’s the final 2017 Camping World Truck Series driver standings

Bell, an Oklahoma native who turns 23 on Dec. 16, has already been announced to drive next season in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. He ends the 2017 Truck campaign with five wins and 21 top-10s in 23 Truck races.

“To be see Christopher be able to mature and grow … it just goes to show these guys develop and we do a good job of developing these guys,” team owner Kyle Busch told FS1. “Erik Jones won our first driver’s championship and now with Christopher Bell bringing home our second, it just continues to solidify our legacy.”

Briscoe, who also turns 23 one day before his good friend Bell, helped send Brad Keselowski Racing out on a high note. BKR is closing after this season.

“This is a long time coming,” Briscoe told FS1. “I’m so proud of these guys to know they’re not going to have job next year, yet they continue to bring real good trucks even though we were outside of the playoffs. … For those guys to continue to believe in me, I’m so blessed and thankful.”

Briscoe was also named Truck Series Rookie of the Year.

Team owner Brad Keselowski, who will be vying for the NASCAR Cup championship on Sunday, told FS1 about Briscoe: “He has a big, bright future ahead of him and along with (BKR teammate) Austin Cindric and I’m just happy to play a role and help him out.”

The other Championship 4 contestants that came up short were 2016 Truck champ Johnny Sauter (finished third), Austin Cindric (fifth) and Matt Crafton (sixth).

STAGE WINNERS: Stage 1 (Christopher Bell), Stage 2 (Ben Rhodes)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Cindric showed a lot of mettle while running near the front much of the race. Not bad for a 19-year-old rookie. … Bell did exactly what he needed to do to win the title: finish ahead of his other three challengers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Noah Gragson had a rough night, finishing 18th, three laps behind the leaders.

NOTABLE: Toyota earned its fifth consecutive Truck Manufacturers Championship, and 10th overall in the last 14 seasons. … With the exception of the two cautions between stages, there were no other cautions caused from on-track action.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This whole organization, this whole team has been so good for so many years, you just don’t want to be that guy to let them down – and I’m really glad I didn’t let them down tonight.” – 2017 Truck Series champ Christopher Bell (via FS1).

WHAT’S NEXT: The 2017 season has concluded. The next race is the 2018 NextEra Energy Resources 250, Friday February 16, Daytona International Speedway.

Starting lineup for Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Cup title race

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After making contact with both the outside wall and Chase Elliott last Sunday at Phoenix, Denny Hamlin failed to advance to Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But that didn’t stop Hamlin — who has two career wins at the South Florida 1.5-mile track — from earning his second career pole for Sunday’s race.

Martin Truex Jr. — who has six wins on 1.5-mile tracks in his seven overall victories this season — was the highest qualifying Championship 4, starting on the front row alongside Hamlin.

The other Championship 4 drivers qualified third (Kyle Busch), fifth (Brad Keselowski) and ninth (Kevin Harvick).

Click here for the starting lineup for Sunday’s race.