'Smoke' called to front of line for Indy tribute
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Tony Stewart 's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway got off to an emotional start here Sunday as NASCAR and IMS officials, along with fans of the three-time premier series champion, paid tribute to Stewart during pre-race activities. Stewart, twice a winner at the legendary 2.5-mile facility, is retiring from Sprint Cup competition at season's end. Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard marked his 18th career start at the track. Stewart, 45, led the field on the opening pace lap well ahead of even the pace car prior to the start of the race before falling back in line to his official starting position of third on the 40-car grid. Earlier, additional room on the pre-race grid was provided to the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team to accommodate up to 100 guests on hand to see Stewart make his final scheduled Brickyard start. Stewart has 49 career victories, including Brickyard 400 wins in 2005 and '07. His 9.6 average finishing position at Indy is his best at any track in the series. Stewart grew up in Columbus, Indiana, located approximately 50 miles south of the speedway, and he maintains his primary residence there. He has spoken often of what the track has meant to him through the years. "You know, it means a lot," he said recently. "Some of the greatest race car drivers in the world, whether it was IndyCar, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, they've run and won at the Brickyard, so that in itself makes it special. "I grew up ... in Indiana. I didn't move to Indiana. I didn't move away from Indiana. I'm the only NASCAR driver in the (Sprint) Cup Series that's from Indiana that still lives in Indiana, and I'm proud of where I was born. I'm proud to be back. "I still live in the town I was raised in. I take a lot of pride in that. I think the state of Indiana takes a lot of pride in that, and that's what makes it a big weekend. I'm representing a lot of people around me, and I'm proud to do that." Stewart made his first start at Indy in 1996, winning the pole and finishing 24th for team owner John Menard in the Indianapolis 500. He finished fifth the following year. Stewart remains the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles of the Indy/Charlotte double held in May. He finished sixth in the Indy 500 in 2001, then flew to Charlotte Motor Speedway where he drove to a third-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 .
Staff picks for Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Jimmie Johnson : "The focus is rightly on Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart this weekend. Away from the spotlight, though, Johnson and his No. 48 team finally get back on track with a dominant showing -- and "Six-Time" ties Gordon with his fifth career win at the Brickyard." -- Brad Norman Tony Stewart : 'Smoke' has been on a roll and no place means as much to him as the Brickyard. -- Kenny Bruce Kyle Larson : " Fueled by a landmark victory at Eldora Speedway and increased team performance, expect Kyle Larson to ride a wave of momentum into the Brickyard, backing up his two Indy top-10s by landing in Victory Lane for the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career." -- Pat DeCola Martin Truex Jr. : Furniture Row Racing puts all the pieces together, shedding any bad luck for another crown jewel win to pair with its Coca-Cola 600 triumph. -- Zack Albert Jimmie Johnson : " He's won here four times before and it's time for his frustrating summer to end." -- Holly Cain Tony Stewart : "Equipped with a third-place starting position for his final Brickyard 400 run, look for Indiana native Tony Stewart to continue his hot streak up front -- and eventually in Victory Lane." -- Jessica Ruffin Ryan Newman : "The Rocket Man has been close the past two weeks (seventh at Loudon, third at Kentucky) and qualified sixth at the Brickyard, so let's go with Indiana's forgotten son to pull off the upset on Sunday. After all, his last Sprint Cup Series win came at Indy (2013)." -- George Winkler Kyle Busch: " The Sprint Cup Series champ is starting on the pole and I think he's going to stay there to bring home his second consecutive Brickyard win. Also, with Saturday's XFINITY Series win under his belt, Busch is eyeing a sweep again, a feat that's only been done by him." -- Taylor Nunnally Carl Edwards : " The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has the speed this weekend and his quiet summer is about to come to an end with his first Brickyard win." -- RJ Kraft Jimmie Johnson : Four-time Indy winner is due for a Brickyard win and this weekend could be the year "Six-Time" ties Jeff Gordon for the most wins at the 2.5-mile track. -- Maggie MacKenzie Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
The Rundown: Indianapolis driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Total domination. Busch won Saturday's and Sunday's races from the pole and led a record 149 laps Sunday. His average running position Sunday was 1.2, and his lowest position was third. Seriously? Busch's hammerlock on the field was on par with what Martin Truex Jr. did in the Coca-Cola 600 . Thus the same mark. Grade: AAA+ 2. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth is still winless at the Brickyard but has now finished second three times. More numbers: In Kenseth's first four starts at Indianapolis for JGR, his finishes are 5th, 4th, 7th and 2nd. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson had to do a pass-through on Lap 86 for a pit-road speeding penalty, dropping him to 23rd. Attrition and persistence led to Johnson's first top 10 since he finished third at Charlotte two months ago. Nice finish, but this team still needs to clean up its mistakes. Grade: A- 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Ditto the No. 11 team. Hamlin was assessed his seventh pit-road speeding penalty of the season one lap after Jimmie Johnson (same round of green-flag stops). Hamlin was running third at the time and fell back to 18th. Nice recovery, but … Grade: A- 5. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson was the second-biggest winner of the afternoon, moving up four spots in the standings to 15th. Grade: A 6. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick upped his points lead to 24. Two races ago it was down to four. If you don't think that's important, remember this: If qualifying is rained out, the field is set by the standings -- as is the order of selecting a pit stall. So, yes, the standings still matter. Grade: A 7. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano restarted second on the final restart but couldn't hold the position or make a run at Kyle Busch. Logano, by the way, finished second to Busch in last year's Brickyard. Grade: A 8. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing. Truex was strong all afternoon – his 5.6 average running position was second to Kyle Busch's – but he was no match for the winner. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Sunday's top 10 was Dillon's ninth of the season (20 starts), equaling his total for the first 85 starts of his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Menard benefited from accidents in front of him that he was able to avoid to score his second top 10 of the season. Grade: A- 11. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart started third and was running with the leaders when he was caught speeding on pit road just before the third caution and had to restart at the tail end of the field, one lap down. He was still back in the pack (20th) with 25 laps to go in regulation. But then came all the cautions. "Smoke" finally got his lap back with a free pass on the fifth caution, survived contact with Jamie McMurray on Lap 166 and salvaged a decent finish on his last go-round at Indy. Grade: B 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse survived the big Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck that brought out the red flag to get a finish that belied his day. He turned 14 laps in the top 15 and had an average running positon of 20.1. Grade: B- 13. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite problems with restarts, Gordon was able to post his best finish of the season and overcome the incredible pressure of replacing Alex Bowman in the No. 88. ... Yes, I'm kidding. Except for the restarts part. Vive Monsieur Gordon! Grade: A 14. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher recorded the best finish of his Sprint Cup career on a day in which he turned all of two laps in the top 15 and had a 23.7 average running position. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott registered his best finish since a second-place finish at Michigan more than a month ago. Grade: B 16. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. For only the second time this season, Busch failed to finish in the top 10 in back-to-back races. Grade: B- 17. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was the rage early on with his team's bold pit strategy, but the second half of the race bore zero resemblance to the first half. Getting caught up in the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck didn't help, either. Grade: B 18. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite a fourth-straight finish outside the top 10, Kahne moved up two spots in the standings to 16th, 10 points behind Kyle Larson . He jumped one driver who missed the race ( Dale Earnhardt Jr. ) and one who didn't use the best judgment and crashed with 10 laps to go ( Trevor Bayne ). Grade: C 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray's nice run came to a screeching halt on the restart on Lap 165 when he moved down in front of Tony Stewart but hadn't cleared the No. 14. Stewart wasn't about to lift, and the No. 1 went for a slide onto the access road before returning to the track and smacking Ryan Newman . Worse, the caution gave the free pass to Chase-cutoff competitor Kasey Kahne . Grade: B- 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill avoided calamity to get his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: B 21. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Bowyer contributed to the caution-fest at the end of the race when he got into the back of Trevor Bayne , who inexplicably went for the block with so much on the line (Chase standings) and running so far back in the field. Grade: C 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Wrong place, wrong time. Again. Patrick had nothing to do with the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck but still ended up a part of it. On the other hand, she finished right where she spent most of the race. Grade: C 23. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. McDowell posted his best finish at the Brickyard in seven starts. Grade: B- 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. Mears finished in the top 25 for the 10th time this season. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola, who is still looking for his first top 10 of the year, is on pace to have his worst season with RPM, for which he has been driving full time since 2010. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. Smith posted his best finish since a 22nd at Pocono in early June. Grade: C 27. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Despite being collected in the last wreck of the day, Scott picked up his best finish in his past eight starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . After posting four top-30 finishes in his first 14 starts, Annett has four in his past six. Grade: C 29. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Since a 37.3 average finish in his first three starts of the season, Whitt has an average finish of 27.5 over his next 14 races. Grade: C 30. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne's move to block Clint Bowyer on the backstretch on Lap 158 was as costly as it was ill-advised. Bayne spun all the way to his worst finish of the season and to 18th in the standings, 14 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Grade: D 31. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Newman's day began to unravel on the restart on Lap 154. He restarted sixth, outside of Carl Edwards . On the first turn, Edwards drifted up into Newman and the No. 31 suffered major damage. With Newman sitting near the Chase cut-off line, it was important for him to coax the car home. He returned to the track but couldn't make it to the finish when Jamie McMurray ran up the track into him on the Lap 165 restart after contact with Tony Stewart . Bottom line: Valiant effort but a DNF and 10-point day. Grade: C 32. Ryan Ellis , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing. Ellis picked up a career-best finish in his fourth Sprint Cup Series start. Grade: C 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson ran to form, and his 33.8 average finish is third-worst in the Sprint Cup Series among drivers with at least 10 starts. Grade: D 34. Patrick Carpentier, No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . After not starting a Sprint Cup Series race since 2011, Carpentier made his second start of 2016. He finished 37th last month at Sonoma. Grade: D 35. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards was part of the strong JGR contingent all afternoon – 6.6 averaging running position – until his mishap on Lap 154. Whether it was a tight car or dirty tires, the outcome was costly as he dropped two spots in the standings. Grade: F 36. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. Blaney was collected and knocked out of the race in the Carl Edwards -initiated wreckage that resulted in a red flag. Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to 19th, and is now 22 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Blaney began the day nine points ahead of Larson. Grade: C 37. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Ragan brought out the third caution on Lap 120 when his left-rear tire went down and he slammed the wall. It was his third DNF and second-worst finish of the season. Grade: F 38. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was running 11th when his car lost water pressure. Moments later it overheated with less than 100 laps to go. It was Allmendinger's second DNF in the past three races. Grade: F 39. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Biffle's day ended after 53 laps when his right-front tire went down and he slammed into the outside wall. His streak of top 10s – three – ended as well. Grade: F 40. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing. His engine didn't even make through five laps, leaving DiBenedetto with his seventh DNF of the season. "How is that even possible?" DiBenedetto tweeted. "Who has the voodoo doll of me that severely dislikes me?" Grade: F
Truex Jr. rewrites history, breaks records with Coca-Cola 600 win
RELATED: Truex Jr.'s history when leading 100 or more laps Martin Truex Jr .'s dominating Coca-Cola 600 win on Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway was an important victory for the No. 78 team. It marked Truex's first 2016 win and virtually punched his ticket to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . It was also record-breaking -- in more than one category. Below are the feats accomplished by Truex & Co. on Sunday night in North Carolina. • Truex's 588 (of 600) miles led was the most ever in a NASCAR race. • His 392 laps led were the most in a Coca-Cola 600 . Jim Paschal held the previous record with 335 laps in the front of the field during the 1967 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . • The No. 78 driver's dominant win earned him a perfect driver rating of 150.0, a first for any Sprint Cup Series driver at Charlotte. • The race spanned 3 hours, 44 minutes and 5 seconds, marking the quickest Coca-Cola 600 event ever. • Drivers in Sunday's race averaged a speed of 160.655 mph, the fastest average speed for a Coca-Cola 600 event in race history.
Mark Martin will drive pace car before Coca-Cola 600
RELATED: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class revealed " Event photos Mark Martin 's back in a car this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway -- this time, however, it will be in the pace car. Freshly minted as a selectee in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2017, Martin jumped at the opportunity to log laps again before the Coca-Cola 600 -- a race he won in 2002. Martin will lead the field to green for the 57th running of the Coca-Cola 600 and said, "When the speedway called to ask me if I'd do it, my first reaction was 'Hell, yeah!' " "Originally I'd planned to be at Indy, but now I get to do the 'double' in a way, and I can say I'll be driving at Charlotte," Martin said. " Charlotte Motor Speedway was always my favorite race track. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of success there, including winning a Coke 600. Bruton and Marcus always put on a fabulous show, and this will be cool to lead the field to green in front of thousands of fans that I enjoyed racing for all those years." WATCH: Stewart completes Indy-Charlotte 'double' Several drivers, notably including current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch , have competed in the Memorial Day Double, racing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 . Stewart was the first to complete all 1,100 miles in one day in 2001. Martin plans to see the start of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday before heading to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.)
Staff picks for Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte
Kasey Kahne : The Coca-Cola 600 is such a different animal that rewards mental acuity, pure tenacity and physical fitness. Kasey Kahne has those qualities and won NASCAR's endurance event three times, and with two top-five finishes already this season, this is where he breaks out of his 59-race winless rut. -- Kathy Sheldon Joey Logano : It'll be a clean Charlotte sweep for Sliced Bread, who got his mojo back during the Sprint All-Star Race. Last week's $1 million win probably felt spectacular -- the feeling may be equal Sunday night when Logano celebrates his biggest NASCAR victory to date. -- Brad Norman Carl Edwards : He's the defending race winner and has posted five straight top 10s at Charlotte. Kevin Harvick is the only other driver who can say that, but the No. 19 pit crew gives him the edge -- by a footlong Subway sandwich at the finish. -- George Winkler Kevin Harvick : This one's an easy pick for me. There's a reason why Harvick sits atop the standings and that's exactly where he'll stay after cruising to another Coca-Cola 600 win. -- Maggie MacKenzie Joey Logano : The most recent Charlotte winner, Logano's No. 22 Ford seems ready for 600 miles of action, as he topped two of the three rounds of qualifying, scoring a second-place starting position. With a fast car and plenty of momentum after his All-Star win, look for the Team Penske driver to punch his ticket to the Chase Sunday with his first '16 victory. -- Jessica Ruffin Martin Truex Jr . : Forget about what has gone wrong late in races for the No. 78 team, Truex has consistently been one of the best on the intermediate tracks this season. The Furniture Row Racing driver will cash in on his pole run and strong pit spot for his first win of 2016. -- RJ Kraft Joey Logano : Becomes first driver to sweep All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 since Kurt Busch in 2010. Logano drives the No. 22 Ford for team owner Roger Penske, Busch's team owner in '10. -- Kenny Bruce
Whelen to sponsor Newman's Coca-Cola 600 car
WELCOME, N.C. (May 23, 2016) - Richard Childress Racing announced today that Whelen Engineering Co., the "Official Warning Lights of NASCAR", will serve as the primary sponsor on Ryan Newman 's No. 31 Chevrolet SS for the 57th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2016. "Whelen Engineering, the Official Warning Lights of NASCAR, is pleased to be the primary sponsor of the Whelen No. 31 Chevrolet for the Coca-Cola 600 ," said Phil Kurze, vice president of motorsports. "Ryan (Newman) is a familiar name to us since he has been in Victory Lane a number of times in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway . It is fitting to have a graduate engineer driving a race car sponsored by an engineering company. The familiar red and white Sam Bass paint scheme will be displayed on the car and we look forward to the excitement of the longest race on the Sprint Cup schedule." The red and white colors of the No. 31 Whelen Chevrolet will hit the track for the annual Memorial Day weekend event, in which Newman has three top-five and six top-10 finishes, in addition to five pole awards. "Whelen's commitment to motorsports is comprehensive, and we are proud to partner with them for the Coca-Cola 600 ," said Torrey Galida, president of Richard Childress Racing . "Their dedication to innovation and safety is in line with the philosophy here at RCR, and we look forward to seeing the No. 31 Whelen Chevrolet on the track this Memorial Day weekend." A company that now employs over 1,400 workers, Whelen began in 1952 when George W. Whelen invented the first rotating aircraft "anti-collision" beacon in his garage in Deep River, Connecticut. Over the years, Whelen grew out of the garage and into the mainstream, working with police, public works, and fire departments across the country. Today, Whelen has two manufacturing facilities totaling over 1,000,000 square feet, employs the largest staff of design engineers in the industry, and has partnered with OEMs on new vehicle design and product integration. While this is RCR's first partnership with Whelen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Whelen has an extensive history and presence in motorsports. As the "Official Warning Lights of NASCAR", Whelen provides all of the caution lights, pit road entrance, and pit road exit lights, "hot pit/garage area" warning lights, as well as all of the warning lights used on pace cars and safety vehicles across all three NASCAR national touring series. Whelen also serves as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Whelen Euro-Series. This commitment to motorsports extends beyond NASCAR as well. Whelen is the primary sponsor on the Action Express No. 31 DP Corvette in the IMSA Weather Tech Championship Series. For additional information on today's announcement, and all that's happening at RCR, please visit rcrracing.com .
Martin Truex Jr. wins Coca-Cola 600 in dominating fashion
RELATED: Full race results " SHOP: Truex Jr. Gear CONCORD, N.C. -- The heartbreak kid survived 600 miles without another broken heart. Instead, Martin Truex Jr . broke records in Sunday night's victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , a race in which the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota set new standards for domination. Truex led 392 of 400 laps, most ever in NASCAR's longest Sprint Cup Series race. He spent 588 of 600 miles at the front of the field, most ever in a single race in NASCAR history. RELATED: When Truex Jr. has led 100 laps or more And when it was over, Truex had his first victory of the season, the fourth of his career and an all-but-guaranteed berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Perhaps more important, Truex erased a litany of crushing disappointments that continued into this season and ruined potential winning efforts at Texas, Kansas and Dover. "It's just kind of sinking in now that we won the 600," Truex said in Victory Lane. "Really proud of my team -- everybody that made this possible, that believed in me, gave me this opportunity. (Crew chief) Cole Pearn, Jazzy (team engineer Jeff Curtis), my guys are something special. "I want to thank all of them. This is a big day. Got the troops on the cars (for Memorial Day recognition). This is a special weekend. It's really neat to bring that name (of fallen hero Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey E. Bohr Jr.) home to Victory Lane. Just a lot of emotion right now. Not really sure it's sunk in yet. Just an amazing day, an amazing weekend for all of us. It's a weekend you dream about." Truex finished 2.572 seconds ahead of Kevin Harvick , whose car tightened up during the final 56-lap green-flag run. Jimmie Johnson ran third and led the second-most laps -- five. Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski completed the top five, but the night belonged to Truex. When darkness fell, Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet came to life, but the tight handling condition that developed over the final 80 miles prevented him from taking the fight to Truex. "Well, I saw him for about 50 miles or 75 miles," Harvick said. "The rest of the night I never saw him. I was back there swatting flies in the middle of the pack. I didn't have a lot of time to see the 78." Johnson was pleased with the speed in his own No. 48 Chevrolet, but it was no match for Truex's Camry. "I kind of felt like he was playing with us," Johnson said. "He was so fast. I would flatfoot (Turns) 1 and 2, and have a nose on him, and he would drive right back by me into Turn 3. It was so fast. It was very impressive. I'm happy for Martin. That team and those guys worked awfully hard to get where they’re at." But for the vagaries of green-flag pit stop cycles, Truex was out front for the entire race. He led 336 of the first 344 laps, surpassing the race and speedway record of 335 set by 1967 Coke 600 winner Jim Paschal. MORE: Most dominant races in NASCAR history The average speed of the race, 160.644 mph, was a record for a Coca-Cola 600 that went the full distance, as was the duration of the race, 3 hours, 44 minutes, 8 seconds. Truex achieved a perfect driver rating of 150.0, the first of his career. "I had confidence," Truex added. "I had faith. I had confidence in my team. I've got a lot of great people behind me. Sherry (Pollex, Truex's girlfriend and an ovarian cancer survivor), she gives me a lot of inspiration. "And we keep on fighting. We never give up. We never quit. We always keep digging, and I'm proud of my guys for sticking by me. They all did a great job tonight. There are so many fans that have supported us the last few years with so many heartbreaks. I really appreciate that. I really had fun tonight."
Johnson looks to cure cold spell at the Brickyard
RELATED: Johnson through the years " See all the winners at the Brickyard SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson looked comfortable and calm taking questions from the media Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion's No. 48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet was fastest in the day's opening practice here and seventh quickest in final practice. The historically tough 2.5-mile track has been a positive outlet for Johnson. His success at Indianapolis – four wins – is undeniable, but it is also sporadic. And overdue. Johnson won three times at Indy in four years between 2006-2009 – a mark both unmatched and highly impressive. He added a fourth victory in 2012 and then nearly a fifth in 2013 when he finished runner-up. Only Jeff Gordon (five wins) has won more here. The flip side of the success is that three times Johnson has finished 36th or worse. He was 14th and 15th in his last two races at Indy. And his need to add another win here in Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is as much about turning his season around in pursuit of a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title as it is attaining Indianapolis-specific glory. "We love big events, that's one thing about Hendrick Motorsports,’" Johnson allowed, smiling. "We look at the 500 and the 400 and all big races as an opportunity; and are excited for it." Johnson was the first driver in 2016 to collect multiple trophies winning the second week of the season at Atlanta and then again three weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. But in the last 10 races, he's crashed out three times and had only a single top-10 finish – a third-place finish at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 . In fact, four of his finishes in this stretch have been 25th or worse. Before a 12th- place finish from the pole position at New Hampshire last week, Johnson uncharacteristically crashed out in back-to-back races with a 35th- place showing at Daytona and 32nd at Kentucky. He's currently eighth in the points standings, however, he is fourth on the Chase Grid because of his multiple wins. "I guess last week is kind of a good example of some of the difficulties we've had," Johnson said of New Hampshire. "We had competitive cars all running in the top 11 and in one corner we lose two of them. "It's been tough, but I think we have a good foundation to build from. We have respectable finishes in our cars, but nobody wants to be a decent finisher or a respectable finisher. We all want to dominate. And, we're working real hard on all fronts; from our engine shop, chassis shop, aero, teams, pit stops, and all of it." Contrary to what other teams may be experiencing, Johnson said it's not that his team isn't trying hard enough to return to form. It may be they are trying too hard. "And that's the problem," Johnson said. "I've been at 110 percent and you make too many mistakes there. And I think our team has, too. So, that's one thing we have recognized and we're going to really try to dial back and make sure that we run where we should. "If we have a fifth place car that week, let's be sure that we at least finish fifth. Maybe there's some opportunities to give us a chance to win, but stop making mistakes. And, I've got to do that, first and foremost." Johnson said he was even open to having the team’s "new driver" Jeff Gordon give feedback on the cars since Gordon – who retired last year – is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week at Indianapolis and next week at Pocono while Earnhardt continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. "We're months in, and I feel like all the drivers have expressed where we could be stronger and what we might need, but a fresh set of eyes and I guess it is kind of biased, but versus the four drivers in unbiased evaluation of the car and where we stack-up and how the engine feels compared to others," Johnson said of possibly getting Gordon's opinion. "And Jeff has had a unique opportunity to see the sport from a totally different angle; and certainly watching cars and I know he's formed some opinions watching other race cars and where the Toyotas might beat us. So, to be able to sit in the car and look for those opportunities and moments, I think will be helpful for us, for sure." The recent struggles are certainly an unfamiliar position for team owner Rick Hendrick, who was just selected for the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. He's grown much more accustomed to winning championships or at the very least challenging for titles. Recently his team has been challenging simply to finish a race. But righting the course is something everyone expects. And the trick is doing it sooner than later. "It seems like when it rains, it pours," Hendrick said. "I think at Daytona we wrecked three or four cars. And then we went to Kentucky and wrecked again. We were in good shape in New Hampshire, but wrecked again. I've been doing this long enough that you can't stay on top forever. You have to work hard to get back. And I think we've made a lot of improvements. "I think we'll see some, hopefully, this weekend. But, you never like having a curveball. This is kind of one of the toughest things you have to go through as one of your star drivers can't drive. And so, the encouraging news is that everybody just stepped up and is working harder. "We're determined to work in every area from the engine to the chassis and aero and everything. And the teams are excited. It's kind of our 'refuse to lose' belief. But we didn't need this, for sure. We didn't need the wrecks we've gone through. Our place looks like a salvage yard where all of the cars have been tore up. But that just makes us dig harder." And Johnson appears ready to lead the charge. "We're all highly inspired to get back on top of the mountain, that is where we feel we should be at Hendrick Motorsports," Johnson said. "We've just got to clean it up on all fronts. Hopefully we have it all together here and can win."
Pollex: Coca-Cola 600 is 'so much sweeter' after recent struggles
Sherry Pollex, longtime girlfriend of Martin Truex Jr., talks about Martin winning the Coca-Cola 600 after a season full of disappointments.