Home / Cup Series / Thinkin’ Out Loud: Martin Truex Jr. Caps Impressive 2017 With First Cup Series Title
(Photo: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP)

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Martin Truex Jr. Caps Impressive 2017 With First Cup Series Title

Who’s in the headline

The best team and driver in 2017 was Martin Truex Jr. When the checkered flag flew at the end of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it was his No. 78 team that hoisted the big trophy on the championship stage. Kyle Busch was the runner-up, with Kevin Harvick ending up third, followed by Brad Keselowski rounding out the Championship 4. Chase Elliott was best among the non- title contenders, finishing fifth in points by 24 over Denny Hamlin.

What happened

Kyle Larson was the dominant car of the race. He led 154 laps in the race and won the first two stages. In the final stage, Busch was on a single pit stop strategy, while Truex, Harvick and Keselowski were on a two-stop strategy. Busch was about to assume the lead as the other three were about to make that second stop when NASCAR threw a caution for brother Kurt Busch getting out of shape in Turns 3 and 4. That caution dropped the No. 18 car back to fourth on the final restart, and he failed to make it all of the way back to the point. Larson had the fastest car as the race was winding down, but when he got to the top two, he stayed behind them to allow them to settle the title between them.

Why you should care

Fans complained for years that the playoffs didn’t reward the regular season champion and there were multiple examples of how the regular season best didn’t even make it to the final race with a chance to win. The new format for 2017 rewarded Truex. When the chips were on the table, he went all-in and grabbed the big trophy and the title.

What your friends are talking about

The championships are settled. Congratulations to Christopher Bell on his Camping World Truck Series title.

Kudos to William Byron for his XFINITY series title. Truex becomes the fifth driver to win the Cup and XFINITY Series title in his career, joining Bobby Labonte, Keselowski, Harvick and Busch.

The winner-take-all aspect of the Homestead championship races can bring out the best and the worst of people. At the end of the Cup race, Larson let a chance at the race win go so that the top two drivers could settle it among themselves. In the XFINITY race, Ryan Preece ran hard against Elliott Sadler and the JR Motorsports driver ended up eighth, losing the title by five positions. On pit lane, Sadler hit Preece’s car and the drivers had to be separated. Preece was racing for a Joe Gibbs Racing team trying to win the owner’s title, so holding it against him for doing what you’re supposed to do in racing seems disingenuous.

The Chevy SS is gone now that the checkered flag has flown at Homestead. With the Camaro coming to the Cup Series next season, the question is running rampant about when the Mustang is going to come to Cup. The Dave Pericak, the Global Director at Ford Performance, was asked when the Mustang was going to Cup. He stated that they had not submitted anything for approval yet, but they are in tune with what is in the showrooms and when it makes sense they will introduce it.

The said state of drivers getting into cars based on money rather than talent was highlighted again this weekend. Richard Childress was discussing his third Cup series team that is being vacated by Paul Menard. One of the questions asked was if he’d entertain bringing in a driver with $2-$3 million in backing to run the series. His response was incredibly telling about the state of the sport. “It will take more than that,” Childress said. “A lot more than that. I am just not going to do that. I don’t plan on it anyway. I have talked to a lot of people. There are a lot of good young drivers out there and I have talked to several of them.” The fact that a team owner isn’t willing to entertain the idea of bringing in a $2,000,000 backed driver to run the Cup series is ludicrous.

Speaking of Richard Childress Racing, the team is cutting back to three full-time XFINITY cars in 2018. Brendan Gaughan is going to run the No. 75 for Beard Motorsports at the four restrictor plate tracks in the Cup series in 2018. He may run a partial schedule in XFINITY in 2018 but the full-time operation will be shuddered.

Danica Patrick is not going to race in the Cup Series next year. Apparently that wasn’t a foregone conclusion going into 2017. For anyone paying attention, it certainly seemed blatantly apparent weeks or even months ago that was indeed the case, but it is official after she announced it in a press conference at Homestead. Whether you choose to admit it or not, Patrick had a huge impact on the sport. The loss of her in conjunction with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth is going to have a substantial impact on the fan base of the sport.

NASCAR announced it signed a contract extension with Goodyear to be the exclusive tire provider for the sport. Look forward to at least five more years of over engineered tires playing a major role in the racing at the top level of stock car racing. Everyone keep their fingers crossed that the experiment with multiple tire compounds that happened during the All-Star race will actually manifest itself into more generic tries that can be utilized at multiple tracks.

All is right with the world. STP has agreed to a continued sponsorship with Richard Petty Motorsports.

Who is mad

Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens had a pit strategy that was going to give them an easy cruise to the title. As the other three title contenders were about to pit for their second time in Stage 3 of the race, which would put Busch ahead by over a lap, the caution flew for Busch’s brother Kurt getting out of shape in Turn 4. Busch righted the car and was about to pull onto pit lane when the caution came out. That unnecessary yellow put Busch behind Truex and ultimately led to him not capturing his second title.

Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott very well should have had a shot at the title this season. Both fell victim to things outside of their control, although Kenseth’s was a mistake by his teammate, but they had a season that could have resulted in a title shot. While things might have been different if they had been in the Championship 4, in the end, it didn’t matter because they weren’t and Kenseth will most likely never have a shot again.

Who is happy

Joey Logano had a very rough year after his win at Richmond Raceway was declared encumbered. Over the last couple of races, he started to rebound and today was in the mix at the front of the field when the laps were winding down. 2018 may be different and it may not, but Logano has to feel like his team is headed in the right direction.

Chris Buescher came home 20th on Sunday and finished in the coveted 25th spot in points. That place in the final point standings translates into substantial money over 26th. Buescher’s new team at JTG-Daugherty Racing was the first year for a second team with the organization. The pressure to outperform the established No. 37 team was intense, but as the season came to an end, he beat his teammate by two positions.

When the checkered flag flew

  • Martin Truex Jr. scored his eighth victory of 2017, and his seventh on a mile-and-a-half track, in his 441st start.
  • Truex more than doubled his career win total this season, now having 15.
  • This was Truex’s first victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • On the All-Time win list, Truex is tied with Ernie Irvan for 53rd.
  • Kyle Busch was the runner-up in the season finale, coming home one position short of his second career title.
  • This was Busch’s second career top two at Homestead.
  • Busch finished in the top two for the ninth time in 2017.
  • This was the 40th time Busch came home as the first loser in his career. That is 17th on the All-Time second place list.
  • Kyle Larson rounded out the podium at Homestead-Miami. This was the second consecutive top three finish at the track for Larson.
  • Larson came home in the top three 13 times in 2017.
  • On the all-time podium list, Larson has 27 top threes which ties him for 70th on the list with Kyle Petty.
  • Rookie of the Race was Erik Jones. This is the 16th win of the year for Jones, as he won Rookie of the Year. Daniel Suarez has won the award 15 times this season while Ty Dillon has snagged the honor four times. Gray Gaulding has been bestowed the award once.

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

NASCAR wanted a game seven moment with their winner take all finale at Homestead. At best it was a game five moment. With Larson dominating the race and then Truex holding Busch off for the final 20 laps thanks to the aero disadvantage of second place, it was barely above average. The race will get four cold Big Rod Coconut Blonde Ales from Miami Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week

The season is over for 2018. The next event on the docket for the Cup Series is the banquet in Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 30. Coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.

About Mike Neff

Mike Neff

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike works as track announcer and does Sales and Marketing for Myrtle Beach Speedway. He announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He’s also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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6 comments

  1. “He may run a partial schedule in XFINITY in 2018 but the full-time operation will be shuddered.”

    *shuttered

    ” although Kenseth’s was a mistake by his teammate”

    *pit crew (While a member of his pit crew is a teammate, we usually refer to drivers as teammates)

    Thank you for the Monday coverage all year Mike. Have a great off-season!

  2. The finale was excellent, with Truex racing his guts out for the last 20 laps. Also, that final caution was for more that Kurt Busch’s half-spin. The 19 also blew a tire at the same same time and was trailing fluid/debris. They showed it on TV when the trail went right through Truex’s pit box. My only gripe of was the notion that drivers running in the top-5 need to pull over for the championship contenders. Larson should have tried to pass Busch and Truex if he could, Logano has every right to fight for a top-5 position with Busch and Preece has every right to defend a Top-5 position from Sadler. Should they run them down to the apron or trade paint? No, but I didn’t see any of that, just hard racing for position.

  3. So why didn’t the caution fly when Johnson scraped the wall and did for Kurt?

  4. The first race I have enjoyed since Carl left ! Was a great win for Truex! He certainly deserved it ! He was ” The Car”‘all year ! Hate the Champion to be a one shot thing !! Has never seemed right !
    Congrats to Martin and Sherry – they are quite the pair

  5. i’m very happy for truex and the 78 team.

    kyle busch showed how much of a horse’s rear end is his during his post-race interview. talk about a punk and spoiled brat. i guess he really hasn’t changed much over the years. i feel for his wife having 2 toddlers to deal with when meltdowns happen.

    the most over-hyped thing of yesterday — the bob costas/dale jr interview. same dribble we’ve heard all along. how nbc was hyping it i thought it would had been an indepth interview. i guess nbc had to justify spending the money to have costas at the race.

    so if cup is running camaro next year, what will the difference be between the camaro in xfinity vs. the one that’s ran in cup?

  6. The race wasn’t that exciting overall but did get a little intense at the end. The important thing is that the driver most deserving (based on performance over the entire season) won the championship. Much better than last year’s farce. NASCAR got lucky.

    Almost no one got coverage other than the 4 championship contenders and Jr. That is wrong. There were a lot of drivers that didn’t even get mentioned during the entire race.