ford ecoboost 400

Watch: Denver-area fans celebrate Martin Truex Jr.’s championship

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Barney Visser’s Furniture Row Racing is the only Cup team headquartered west of the Mississippi River, claiming Denver, Colorado, as its home.

Since the team began competing in NASCAR in 2005, the team has built up a dedicated fanbase in the city.

Those fans were rewarded when Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 and claimed the team’s first Cup championship.

One watch party in the area took place the Quaker Steak & Lube in Westminster, just north of Denver.

A fan has shared video of the moment Truex captured the championship.

Above, you can watch the Furniture Row Racing fans in attendance celebrate during the final lap of the race.

Kyle Busch loses Cup title after ‘wasting too much time’ passing Joey Logano

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After Kyle Busch called out Joey Logano for hindering his chances of winning a second Cup title, Logano’s crew chief said his driver’s racing late in Sunday’s season finale was “clean.”

Busch finished second to Martin Truex Jr after a spirited battle over the final 18 laps around Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But after climbing from his No. 18 Toyota, Busch’s mind was on Logano.

“I had to fight way too hard with some other guys trying to get back up through there, but that’s racing,” Busch said. “Battling with (Logano) there. Just wasting too much time with him. He held me up. He was there blocking every chance he got, so got a real buddy there, but that’s racing. That’s what happens.”

The final restart of the championship race occurred with 34 laps to go and Busch starting third behind Truex, Kevin Harvick and in the same row as Logano.

Busch fell back to fifth on the restart, putting Logano in his way.

It took until there was 25 laps to go for Busch to get back by Logano and set his sights on Harvick. Busch passed the No. 4 Ford seven laps later to set up his duel with Truex.

Logano would finish sixth for his fifth top 10 of the playoffs.

Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, defended his driver while appearing on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

“You have to race everybody hard,” Gordon said. “It is a race and it’s a race with 40 people. There’s four that are racing for a championship. When Kyle finally got to the inside of him, he let him go. Like I said, we were racing hard to try to hold onto a third-place finish. You can’t ever just lay over and give up because you never know when the next caution comes. Our fire-off speed for the first five laps, I would argue we were better than anybody.”

Gordon cited the 2016 finale, when Jimmie Johnson used late cautions to put himself in a position to win the championship.

“You can’t ever give up,” Gordon said. “We’re all programmed to be racers and you never know where the opportunity comes to have a restart. If you looked to last year, I don’t think the 48 was the fastest car, but by the time he got done with a couple of restarts he wound up winning the championship.”

The strong finish capped off a disappointing year for the Team Penske crew. Logano failed to make the playoffs after his April win at Richmond was encumbered because his car failed post-race inspection.

Logano finished in the top 10 twice in the next 10 races and just 17 times over the season. He finished the year 17th in points, the highest driver among those that didn’t make the playoffs.

“Definitely wanted to send this 22 team off with strong finish and a possibility of a win,” Gordon said. “If the cards laid right, we were in that position because our fire-off speed was so fast. You got to race everybody as hard as you can, but with respect. … (Logano) didn’t try to side draft (Busch) to pull him back and all that stuff. They raced clean at that point.”

It’s at least the second time Busch has been upset with Logano this season, though the first time resulted in a physical altercation. On the last lap of the March race at Las Vegas, Logano got loose and made contact with Busch in Turn 4, causing Busch to spin down pit road. 

Busch later approached Logano on pit road and attempted to punch him. Logano’s crew wrestled him to the ground and Busch wound up with cut on his forehead.

“That’s how Joey races, so he’s going to get it,” Busch said.

Maybe next year.

Emotional year helped inspire Martin Truex Jr. to championship

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Martin Truex Jr. felt he could only do so much in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400. But if he was to win his first career NASCAR Cup championship, he was going to need some help.

Following all of Sunday’s post-victory celebrations, Truex and longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex joined Krista Voda, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett on the NBC stage.

And that’s when Truex revealed he did what he could, but he left the outcome in the hands of a higher power.

“I’ve learned along the way that God has a plan, you never know what it’s going to be and sometimes, it’s your time,” Truex said. “This year felt like our year. Everything went the way we needed it to go. We worked hard, we worked our butts to get here.

“But at the end of the day, there is a higher power. And we worked hard, had faith in each other and had each other’s backs through thick and thin, no matter what it was.

“I’m just so thankful for (owner Barney Visser), his team, what he’s built and believing in me, four years ago when we were just awful. … The whole team is just a big family and it was just meant to be, I guess.

“There was a long time in this race where I thought, ‘This is tough, I don’t know how we’re going to get better,’ but I kept digging and telling them what I needed. Cole made the decision to change his pit strategy, caution comes out and we get the lead, and it’s ‘alright, it’s in my hands. I’ve gotta find it.’

“They were better than me all night long and I found something. I didn’t know if it was there, but I went and looked for it and I found it. Unbelievable.”

Even with the eight wins and now the championship, it’s still been a trying year for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Cole Pearn lost his best friend, Jacob Damen, to a bacterial infection in early August at the age of 35.

There also was the loss of team fabricator Jim Watson on Oct. 21, who died of a heart attack while the team was in Kansas City for that weekend’s playoff race.

And then Visser suffered a heart attack Nov. 4 and then underwent bypass surgery two days later. He’s still recovering, so much so that his doctors forbade him from traveling to Homestead and didn’t even allow him to watch the race on TV (he got updates via text throughout the event).

But the most emotional and difficult time of the season for Truex was what Pollex underwent. Pollex had been in remission from ovarian cancer, only to have it recur in early July.

Through Truex’s path to the championship, Pollex has continued to undergo chemotherapy treatment. It was the inner strength from her medical battle that proved to be an inspiration for Truex.

“I thought about this moment so many times but I couldn’t let myself get there because the emotions were just so strong after everything we’ve been through,” Pollex said. “To hear (Truex) say that, he understands now that there’s a bigger picture and God has a bigger plan for us, and that this is where we’re supposed to be, to help and inspire other people at home that are going through any struggle in their life, not just cancer, but everybody’s going through something.

“I feel like God put us in this place for a reason. I don’t want to have cancer, but I do, and I’m going to use my platform to help other people through our foundation and ‘#SherryStrong’ and I think we’ve done that this year.

“I tell him all the time that if you inspire and do things for other people, good things are going to happen to you one day and I truly believe that. I knew that in the end, they were going to come out a winner and it was amazing to be part of it tonight.”

Catch the entire interview with Truex and Pollex in the video above.

Matt Kenseth after potential final Cup start: ‘I did the best I could every week’

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While Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave one of his last TV interviews as a Cup driver in the middle of a loud throng of crew members and fans, Matt Kenseth‘s was typical of the 2003 Cup champion.

After finishing eighth, the 45-year-old driver spoke to NBC’s Kelli Stavast in a much quieter part of pit road by himself.

A week after his emotional win at Phoenix, Kenseth said he “didn’t think about much in the last 20 laps” of the Ford EcoBoost 400, likely the last race of his NASCAR career.

The only thing on his mind was “getting by the 2 car” of Brad Keselowski for one more position.

“Obviously, last week was a magical week or race – to win that race and then this week has been really fun,” said Kenseth, who won his 39th Cup race last Sunday. “The pre-race stuff was really fun. I was glad Katie (wife) was able to get down here and all and having the kids here, my dad, my sister and everybody.

“It was really fun, obviously, what DeWalt did with this paint job and Habitat for Humanity, but doing my rookie paint job was cool as well. So it was a really cool day.”

Kenseth and Earnhardt each drove the paint schemes from their 2000 rookie years. Before the race, Kenseth and Earnhardt’s cars were placed together on the starting grid so the long-time friends could take in the moment together.

Two hundred and sixty-seven laps later, Earnhardt finished 25th, three laps down. Kenseth took his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Toyota to his 327th top-10 finish.

His Phoenix win gave him 181 top fives.

Kenseth was asked what he hoped his legacy, which spans more than 20 years on the NASCAR circuit, would turn out to be.

“Some people are going to like you, some people aren’t,” Kenseth said “Some people are going to respect you, some people won’t. So I mean, whatever people think, they think. I did the best I could every week. Didn’t always do the right thing, that’s for sure, but raced as hard as I could and at the time I always felt like I was trying to do the right thing and gave it my all every time I went to the race track, so that’s all I could do.”

Watch the above video for the full interview.

Cup Championship drivers sound off after Miami finale

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Martin Truex Jr. triumphed over his three championship contenders Sunday night in the Ford EcoBoost 400, claiming the title against Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

The 37-year-old driver earned the title in his 12th full-time Cup season.

NBC talked with all four championship drivers following the race. Watch the above video for Truex’s first interview as a Cup champion. Below are interviews with the three other drivers.

Kyle Busch

Busch may have had the fastest car at the end of the race, but in the closing laps he was held up for an extended period of time by Joey Logano. He eventually got by the No. 22 Ford, but ran out of time to get around Truex and finished second in the race and the championship standings.

Busch shared his frustration with how Logano raced him when he talked to NBC.

Kevin Harvick

Harvick finished fourth in the race and third in the title standings. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was in the Championship 4 for the third time and put SHR within reach of a title in its first year with Ford. Harvick was the only one of the four title contenders who didn’t lead a lap Sunday afternoon.

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski led one lap in the race and finished seventh in his first time in the Championship 4. Keselowski said the No. 2 team “threw everything we could at it” but couldn’t find enough speed to challenge the Toyotas of Truex and Busch. The Team Penske driver later lamented that non-Toyota teams didn’t have much of a chance to win the title.