If you love triangles — and why wouldn’t you? — you must’ve loved Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway. One hundred sixty laps, 480 corners and one victory for Martin Truex Jr., who obviously now loves triangles.
This season looked like it was turning into a showcase for Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, but now Truex is trying to turn it into a three-man race for bonus points. It really isn’t surprising at all if you consider the butt whippin’ he gave the field last year.
But let’s look at the bigger picture of what the win meant for Truex.
The Clam Prince is crowned a winner
The win at Pocono was the 17th career Cup series win for Truex. That ties him with Marvin Panch and Curtis Turner just outside the top 50 all time. It’s also more than some notable names had for their entire Cup careers, such as LeeRoy Yarbrough, Tim Richmond, Donnie Allison and Alan Kulwicki.
Since the start of 2016, there hasn’t been a more familiar face than Truex in Victory Lane. His 14 wins during that span leads the series and is one more than Busch owns and three more than Harvick.
But if you’re new to NASCAR and haven’t been privy to Truex’s entire journey, let me spin you a yarn. He debuted with DEI, moved to Michael Waltrip Racing, saw that team and his sponsor disappear and then got on with a fledgling Furniture Row Racing organization and totaled one lap led and one top-5 finish in his first season. Now he’s been at the forefront as that team has turned into a superpower. But it’s the culmination of a journey.
From Truex’s rookie season in 2006 to 2014 — his first year with Furniture Row Racing — Truex had two career wins. That was tied for the 21st most in the series over those nine seasons and the same number as several drivers who are out of NASCAR now, including Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya and David Reutimann, along with David Ragan.
Something to comfort Busch
Kyle Busch didn’t win Sunday. So that really upsets Kyle Busch.
But I’ve got some good news for him. That third-place finish improved his average finish on the season to 7.6. And that’s pretty good.
Since 2000, only two drivers have had an average finish better than eighth for a full season. The last to do it was Jeff Gordon in 2007. However, despite Gordon’s 7.3 average finish, he didn’t win the championship that season, losing out to a 10-win Jimmie Johnson season.
The other was Bobby Labonte in 2000. Labonte’s 7.4 average finish was good enough to win the championship despite his winning only four races that season. Busch has four wins already this season.
Larson seconds the motion
Kyle Larson came home in second at Pocono, albeit about 2.5 seconds behind Truex. That has become a familiar position for Larson.
Larson has 22 career top-2 finishes in the Cup series, and 17 of those have been as the runner-up. That difference between wins and seconds puts Larson on both a good and unfortunate list.
In fact, he has the sixth-highest difference between his second-place finishes and wins, at 12. Buddy Baker holds the record with his 19 wins and 42 second places (23 differential), then it’s Mark Martin with 21, Terry Labonte with 20, Harry Gant with 17 and James Hylton with 16.
You’re probably wondering, much like me, who has the most second-place finishes without a win in his career. That “honor” belongs to Chase Elliott, with eight.
If Elliott wins his way off that list, the “honor” falls back to G.C. Spencer, who had seven in his 20-year career that lasted from 1958 to 1977.