Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will race for the Sprint Cup championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway on NBC.
Truex seeks his first title and it comes two years after he lost his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing when the sponsor suddenly left after the organization was penalized for attempting to manipulate the Sept. 2013 race at Richmond.
Truex joined Furniture Row Racing for 2014 and struggled much of the season until Cole Pearn became his crew chief late in that season. This year, the team has thrived, earning its second Chase appearance in the past three years and its first in the title round.
Here’s how Truex got here:
REACHED FINAL: Via points (earned final transfer spot)
2016 VICTORIES: 1 (Pocono I)
TOP 10s: 22
AVG. FINISH IN CHASE: 9.4
LAPS LED IN CHASE: 67
AVG. FINISH AT 1.5-MILE TRACKS IN 2016: 8.7
LAST YEAR’S HOMESTEAD FINISH: 17th
OUTLOOK: Other than Pocono win, he had some of his best performances on 1.5-mile tracks this season. A challenge is that the pit crew is not viewed to be as strong as those with other title contenders. Crew chief Cole Pearn has shown he’s willing to be aggressive with his calls and is becoming one of the standout crew chiefs in the sport.
QUOTE: “We have kind of overcome a lot of odds, and just proud to be part of this group and looking forward to having the opportunity to do something that we’ve all dreamed about our whole lives.’’
DUSTIN LONG SAYS: The son of a fisherman, who worked his way into NASCAR, finds himself one race from a title with a single-car team, but there’s more to it than that. He was out of a ride two years ago and then last year his longtime girlfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While not viewed as the favorite this weekend, watch this team, which could cap an emotional journey Sunday.
NATE RYAN SAYS: That his single-car team was worried about getting its No. 78 hauler on the road ahead of a snowstorm bearing down on the Rockies says everything about why Furniture Row Racing is a compelling dark horse. The Denver-based organization has beaten the odds in just surviving as a NASCAR entity, never mind becoming a championship contender. Truex has tailed off since the summer, but if he can recapture his first-half magic, he could give Brian France the most validating storyline — Hey, the little guy can win! — in a season pockmarked by controversy